Tomatoes in a bowl
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The Cannibal Tomato eggplant, is it an eggplant or a tomato? Exactly what is a Cannibal's tomato? Cannibal tomato is not a tomato at all but actually an eggplant. Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a member of the genus Solanum, and is related to the tomato and potato. Eggplant was originally domesticated from the wild nightshade species bitter apple, S. incanum, with two separate domestications: one in South Asia and one in East Asia. Cannibal Tomato eggplant (S. uporo) is a gorgeous plant that is a rabid producer of shiny green and red fruit. The small fruit, about 3 inches (8 cm.) across, resemble adorable little pumpkins or some folks say tomatoes, hence the name. The plant hails from Fiji and Tahiti.

Cannibal Tomato Eggplant Info

Cannibal Tomato eggplants have a macabre history. The story is that the native Fijians, who have practiced cannibalism for thousands of years, used the fruit to create a delicious sauce that apparently pairs very well with human flesh. Apparently these Fijians had a more hardy palate than modern day folks. Turns out that eggplant is bitter, very bitter! The bitterness is due to the substance solanine. Solanine is toxic and is also found in the green part of potatoes. In the case of most eggplants, only very ripe eggplant is generally used, but in the case of Cannibal Tomato types, regardless of maturity, the fruit is indescribably bitter. There are a couple of ways to supposedly lessen the bitterness of eggplant. First, buy mature, ripe eggplants. Soak the sliced fruit in warm salt water for a couple of hours, rinse, and soak again in tap water prior to using. The fruit must then be cooked until well done, which means enough to break down the fibers and leech out the poison. Peeling the fruit is also supposed to lessen the bitter flavor. I have also read that soaking in buttermilk, as you would in salted water above, works as well to remove the bitterness.

Growing Cannibal Tomato Eggplants

So, the Fijians supposedly grew Cannibal Tomato eggplants to pair with human flesh, but they also cooked the greens of the plant too, apparently something to offer to their vegetarian friends? At any rate, growing Cannibal Tomato eggplant, rarity that it is, isn't hard. They are easy to grow when provided with a sunny, well-draining site with fertile soil of a pH 6.3-6.8. Mulch around the plants to retain moisture and retard weeds. Water the plants consistently. Spit spot watering will contribute to that bitter flavor. Because Cannibal Tomato eggplants are such prolific producers, provide them with a support of stakes or even a tomato cage. Since these eggplants are so bitter, many people grow them as a novelty and they certainly have some interesting folklore to go with them. If you dare to make a sauce from Cannibal Tomato eggplants, I've read that human flesh tastes like veal. (This, of course, is meant as a joke!)

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.