Bt Brinjal – will it cannibalize the rest?

Baingan da bhartha. Roasted aubergine, skin removed, flesh chopped fine and cooked with lots of onion and a little tomato, flavoured with coriander, cumin and chilli powder.

Brinjal ‘sagle’ made with purple brinjals in a masala of shredded coconut, ground with roasted fenugreek, coriander, chillies, turmeric, garlic, tamarind, jaggery – and more! – to make a plain rice-and-dhal lunch seem like a feast.

Aloo-baingan, small violet brinjals cooked with potatoes and the simplest of masalas, because the combination of these two vegetables is so perfect, it tastes great without much help.

Why does this blogpost sound like a list of recipes? Because I fear all these dishes may soon be a thing of the past, that’s why. One day I might have to reblog this under ‘History’.

Where was I? Ah, yes, then there are those large round green brinjals the size of aubergines, sliced and batter-fried into bajjis.

And the long violet brinjals cooked in a coconut gravy and seasoned with mustard, curry leaves and lots of green chillies, accompanying rice rotis for a weekend breakfast.

Baba ganoush, a tasty dip made with roasted aubergine (I’ve just made some today).

Bagaare baingan, served with biryani – goes well with rotis too – made with purple-streaked medium-sized brinjals in a spicy tomato-onion gravy.

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Brinjal and potato slices layered with tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, and cheese, and baked till all the flavors blend blissfully, and there’s that irresistable aroma from the oven.

Brinjal upma, made with long pale green brinjals and semolina.

Satsivi, a sauce made from walnuts and spices, to have with fried slices of long violet brinjal, a Georgian recipe I learnt from a Russian long ago.

These are some of the dishes I cook with different varieties of brinjal. And every kind of brinjal has its own flavour.

When there’s talk of Bt Brinjal, the wonderful futuristic pest-resistant vegetable, I’ve always wondered if they meant only one particular variety of brinjal. If so, will all farmers then choose to grow only these because they bring in profits? My question to Jairam Ramesh, Prakash Javadekar, the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee), The Supreme Court, and everybody else involved in the promotion of Bt Brinjal:

Will I be able to cook all these dishes with their distinct flavours once you all are done with your research and permissions? Or will there be only one type of monster brinjal that will replace all other varieties? Because farmers may choose to cultivate only the variety that is commercially viable. Will I have to settle for something that looks like a perfect brinjal, but will have neither taste nor flavour? How will biodiversity be affected?

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