part of the nightshade family, like tomatoes and potatoes, but unlike them not native to the new world. instead the eggplant originates in india and was introduced into mediterranean cuisines by the arabs in the middle ages. it is an absolutely fundamental staple in many parts of italy, especially further south. it can be found found grilled, baked, fried and pickled and i've seen some modern recipes where its is quickly blanched and then chilled as a type of carpaccio... (boh?) there are of course many varieties the dark skinned version being the most common. why are they called eggplants?
being part of the nightshade family they were treated sceptically in northern europe. other species being poisonous. in tomatoes for example the green vines do actually contain the toxin! especially in northern europe therefore the most common use of the eggplant was of a completely white variety whose fruits resembled eggs, and were used as decorative plants. hence the name eggplant.
eggplants are traditionally cut and salted with course salt to collapse the inner cells making them absorb less of the cooking oil and too rid the eggplant of bitter flavors. though many modern varieties have been cultivated adn are no longer so excessively bitter.