Pea eggplant is an evergreen, sparingly-armed, spreading or scrambling, slender shrub growing from 1 – 4 metres tall, named Solanum torvum. These plants are very vigorous and tolerate diseases affecting the root system, thus allowing the crop to continue for a second year.
The tiny Pea Eggplant, about the size of a grape, dresses in many colors: red, orange, purple or green. This variety grows in Southeast Asia, India, Afghanistan, Iran, and China and is usually made into hot pickles because of its bitter flavor.
When can I pick it?
The plant commences flowering when 3 – 4 months old and is said to have an economic life of 3 – 5 years. It can flower and produce fruit all year round, and it can regrow after a fire
The berries grow in clusters, and are usually picked green, but can ripen to yellow and bright red.
Clusters of immature green fruits rather than individual fruits are picked when they reach pea-size or cherry-size, depending on cultivars
- The juice of the plant is used to treat fevers, coughs, asthma, chest ailments, sore throats, rheumatism, dropsy, stomach aches and gonorrhoea
- Antimicrobial, diuretic
- The leaves are dried and ground to powder, this is used as a medicine for diabetic patients
- Cuts, wounds and skin disease : apply the leaves
- Used for malaria, stomach aches and problems with the spleen
- Ant bites : use the fruit of the juice to ease the irritation
Extracts of the plant are reported to be useful in the treatment of hyperactivity, colds and cough, pimples, skin diseases… In fact in Thai pharmacies, cold medicine is available with its chief ingredients being the extract of the pea eggplant.
The fruits are used both fresh, and slit and dried, for cooking in SE-Asia. Because of its size and shape, it is often grilled or stuffed.
Thai Pea are normally added to Thai curries and chili. This small eggplant adds a pleasingly slightly bitter taste, color and texture to the dish, which cannot be easily replicated by any other ingredient.
To remove the bitter taste, crush the fruit, add salt, leave for an hour, and rinse well. Or crush the fruit and fry in oil.
Health authorities warned that if it became too popular and were eaten in large quantities it could lead to health problems. That could probably be said of most wild, semi-wild and even some domesticated varieties of Solanum, including the humble potato, given specific circumstances such as a greening of the tubers. The main offender being the poisonous solanine content of these plants. Certainly livestock have been poisoned by eating some of these plants.