Edible Nightshades: 3 Delicious Recipes to Try

Nightshades contain some of the world's most poisonous and beloved plants all at once. Potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers are all related to belladonna (deadly nightshade), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), and mandrake, yet we love eating them! The same can be said for eggplant, which is also in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. Did you know tobacco is also a nightshade? While I don't encourage smoking (or eating) that, I can say tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes are great additions to any meal. So while nightshades have a shady history, it is important to acknowledge the ones we can eat. After all, did you know tomatoes were originally considered poisonous by Europeans for more than 200 years?  We should enjoy these edible nightshades now that we know they're actually quite healthy to eat! Here are 3 delicious and nutritious recipes you should consider making that feature four nightshades: Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. 

 

Ratatouille  

Want to know a secret? Ratatouille was originally a meal made by poor farmers and was prepared in the summer with fresh summer vegetables. So, in essence, it was a peasant dish. Ironic, right? The word ratatouille actually comes from the French term "touiller," which means to toss food. This dish originated in present day Nice. This recipe should serve about 4 people, so feel free to make it for your family one night or invite over a few guests to share!  

Ingredients: 

  • 1 eggplant (about 1 – 1 ¼ pounds) 
  • 2 – 3 tomatoes 
  • 1 pound of zucchini, yellow summer squash, or a combo of both 
  • 3 small onions (or 1 large) 
  • 2 green peppers (or 1 green and 1 red, yellow, or orange) 
  • ½ cup olive oil 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 teaspoon thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram 
  • Salt and pepper (to taste) 

Directions: 

  1. Peel eggplant, and then cut it into bite-sized pieces (they should resemble 1-inch cubes). Cut tomatoes, zucchini, and onion in similarly sized pieces. Remove seeds and membrane from green pepper and cut into 1-inch squares. 
  2. Brown onions and peppers in 2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. Remove them to a separate dish, then brown the eggplant and zucchini, adding oil 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. Then briefly cook the tomatoes with the garlic. Once all have been browned, combine them together into one pan. 
  3. Add herbs and salt and pepper and continue to cook slowly, covered, for about 10 minutes or until tender. Now, your ratatouille is done! Serve immediately and enjoy. 

 

Gazpacho 

This popular soup originated from the Andalusian area in Spain. It has many different influences from Greece and Rome, but even some from the Moors and Arab culture. It's safe to say this soup has been around the block! It's mostly known now for being served cold, but it has evolved over time. The most popular version of it is the tomato-based version (which is presented in the recipe below), but there are other versions of it (like this yummy beet version). This recipe should serve about 4 people. 

Ingredients 

  • 6 cups of tomato juice 
  • 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice 
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional – some brands of canned tomato juice are very salty) 
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press 
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped or shredded 
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded 
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped 
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped or shredded 
  • ¼ cup green onion or chives, chopped 
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped 

Directions 

  1. This recipe is actually super simple to make. Just combine the liquids and mix until blended, and then add the vegetables. Last but not least, chill overnight, or for at least a few hours.  Done! You're ready to serve and eat. 

Note: Feel free to experiment with how coarsely or finely you chop or shred vegetables. A food processor will make this easier but will turn it more into a puree. If you're fine with that, go for it! 

 

Double Nightshade Salad 

Not much history to this salad recipe except for the fact it requires two different nightshades: Potatoes and green peppers. These two nightshades have a history all their own. Green, yellow, orange, and red peppers (along with all chili peppers) belong to the Capsicum annuum family and have been grown for more than nine thousand years in Central and South America. Potatoes, on the other hand, were first found in the Andes in South America and domesticated about 7,000 – 10,000 years ago. Together, they certainly make one heck of a salad though. This recipe serves about 4 people. 

Salad ingredients: 

  • 1 ½ pounds red potatoes 
  • 1 green pepper, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped 
  • 1 small red onion, chopped 

Dressing ingredients: 

  • ¼ cup vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons brown mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Salt and black pepper (to taste) 

Directions: 

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain, cool, and cut potatoes into quarters. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with green pepper, fresh basil, red onion, and salt and pepper. Set aside. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, and olive oil. Pour over the salad, and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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