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Aubergine/U.S.A Eggplant (Solanum Melongena)

They look like purple bulbs, but are also available white, although these are rarely seen in British shops. Aubergines are an established 'Mediterranean' vegetable, being a traditional ingredient in Ratatouille, a necessary ingredient in many Greek dishes - including moussaka and possibly most famous of all in Turkish Iman bayaldi.

Aubergines should be bought when they're firm, and feel heavy for their size. Large varieties are at their best if sliced (or cut in half) and salted for about half an hour. This draws out any inherent bitterness - although this is less of a problem with modern varieties, as this has been bred-out to a great extent, and opinion is divided as to whether this procedure is still necessary.

In the Far East, miniature varieties are common and these are often made into hot pickles.

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