Vege Profile: Eggplant

Eggplant. Aubergine. Brinjal. There are many beautiful recipes from around the world and just as many names for this delightful veggie. It’s had a long history for all those foods and names to come about. It should be best known for these reasons, not the connotations it’s emoji now has. Oh well. Fame and infamy, they’re both there for the taking in aubergines case. 

The Italian word for eggplant is Melanzana, which translates to 'apple of madness’. Great name for a metal album there. The name came from  eggplant being from the nightshade family (with the likes of potatoes and tomatoes) which are close relatives to many toxic nightshade plants. Every family's got one or two! 

Eggplant is a fruit. A berry, Like tomato. You’d be mad to add it to your berry smoothie just as you wouldn’t add tomato to the fruit salad.  

Eggplant’s ancestor was a small, prickly topped fruit. It was first documented in India 4000 years ago where it continues to grow wild and is known as “King of the Vegetables” there. The wild eggplant is a small, green, white, and violet fruit. They migrated up into the middle east where the number of names given to it over it’s history are innumerable. This ancient time frame has given many cultures time to perfect their aubergine cuisine! 

Eggplants were once used to dye teeth for fashion. A black dye was made from the plant and ladies from 5th Century China used it to stain their teeth that gleamed like metal when polished. Yikes!

Eggplants are the vegetable with the highest nicotine volume. I wouldn’t sub in eggplant parm if you’re looking to wean yourself off smoking though, the levels are low enough that you would have to eat between 20 and 40 pounds of eggplant to equal the amount of nicotine you'd get smoking one cigarette. The cigarettes would be the least of your problems! 

 Eggplant has a remarkable antioxidant known as Nasunin - a potent fighter of inflammation and oxidative stress. This antioxidant also helps absorb iron in the body. Nasunin is found on the skin of the eggplant. It helps brain cells from free radical damage and transports nutrients into cells and waste out. Eggplants are 95% water. 50% of their volume is air. 

A serving of eggplant can provide at least 5% of a person’s daily requirement of fiber, copper, manganese, B-6, and thiamine.  

To store: Place in a cool cupboard or your vege crisper for 4 to 7 days. Best used sooner rather than later. You may want to put the eggplant into a paper bag to protect the skin, as it can damage easily. Once cut, store in an airtight container in your fridge. 

To prep: Leave skin on, cube or slice your aubergine. Some recipes require you to salt your eggplant first, this draws out any bitterness.  

Traditional recipes 

Chinese Sichuan stir-fries 

Middle Eastern Baba ghanoush  

Lebanese aubergine pickle 

Eggplant parmigiana 

Bayildi, stuffed roasted eggplant from Turkey 

Sicilian caponata 

Malidzano: Traditional Macedonian spread made from puréed bell peppers, eggplant, oil and salt 

Moussaka: Ottoman layered dish of eggplant and meat 

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