All Hallows Even is soon upon us. I’ve observed Samhain, the Celtic New Year, in one form or another for more than a decade now including taking in a Loreena McKennitt concert in the mid-1990s.
My celebrations involve food and several foods from apples to wormwood (think tarragon), corn, and Dittany of Crete (Origanum Dictamnus, a variety of oregano) are associated with Samhain. Dittany of Crete is used in astral projection. I’ve grown it and I love the energy of it, but I have no experience astrally projecting with it.
This brings us to the Nightshades, an interesting and varied family with some really deadly members. It’s the killers which are associated with Samhain as well as Beltaine, observed in the spring.
Well, Nightshade is Nightshade to me. As long as it’s in the family I figure I can use it. Thanks to my husband’s botany textbooks I learned that eggplant (Solanum melongena), bell peppers (Capsicum annuum), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), and tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), are members of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family.
Tomatoes were thought “poisonous because many European members of their family (the Solanaceae) have bitter fruits containing toxic or hallucinogenic compounds.” (p.119. Economic Botany: Plants in our World by Beryl Brintnall Simpson and Molly Conner-Ogorzaly. Copyright 1986, McGraw-Hill Book Company.)
Lycopersicon esculentum, is Latin for “juicy wolf-peach,” the text book said. “The German common name ‘wolf-peach’ reflected the belief that the fruits could be used in cabals to evoke werewolves.” (IBID)
Reading on I learned that alkaloids from the potato family control muscles spasms. The solanaceous alkaloids are hyoscyamine (and l-hyoscyamine), atropine and scopolamine (or hyosine).
Technically, they’re known as tropane alkaloids and are commonly extracted from Atrope belladonna. (IBID p.371)
Anyway, with potato, tomato, bell pepper, and eggplant to work with I knew I could do something. My husband likes veggies, even eggplant, so I wanted something we’d both enjoy.
A few experiments later I had the Solanaceous Supper that’s become a Samhain tradition.
It’s easy to prepare and creates few dishes making for a fairly quick clean up. Here’s what to do:
Peel, slice and salt a firm, healthy medium-sized eggplant. I’ve read that they don’t need salting, but I feel better doing it. They’ve got lousy public relations already, finding a bitter one won’t help their cause.
Let it leach for at least a half-hour then dry with paper towels and cut into bite–sized pieces.
Take a large, healthy, firm green pepper. Remove stem and seeds and cut into small pieces. Imagine you’re making a Greek Salad and cut accordingly.
Use between four and six medium potatoes. This depends on the size of the spud and the number of people you’re feeding. Chop into small pieces. Peel or not as you see fit.
Use four to six medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped.
Use at least a half-cup of chopped onion. I use purple because it’s tasty and it looks good.
Mix together in a 9 x 13” casserole dish and coat with cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil and add good quality red wine vinegar.
Spice it with thyme, basil, and oregano along with your choice of parsley, chervil, and/or garlic. If you like, then sprinkle some cayenne on it, too. Capsicum frutenscens is also in the Solanaceae family. Use salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Ready to cook:
Cook at 350 degrees. It’ll take about 50-60 minutes. At the 40-50 minute mark remove from oven and sprinkle a cup of finely chopped Feta cheese on it. Return to oven for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
Allow to sit for at least five minutes before serving.
The finished product:
When serving on Samhain always set an extra place at the table. On this night the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and otherworldly guests should be made welcome.