Eggplant or aubergine is a species of nightshade grown for its edible fruit.
Botanically, eggplant is a berry, just like blueberries, watermelon, or tomatoes. In botany, a berry is a fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens into an edible, relatively soft pericarp.
Culinarily, it’s a vegetable, as it’s used in main dishes and not eaten for sweetness.
Its origin is considered to be India where it continues to grow wild. This spiny, bitter, orange, pea-sized fruit has been cultivated throughout India and China for more than 1500 years.
As trade routes opened, eggplant was introduced to Europe by the Arabs and transported to Africa by the Persians. The Spaniards carried it with them to the New World and, by the early 1800s, both white and purple varieties could be found in American gardens.
Eggplant is usually grown as an annual and features an erect bushy stem that is sometimes armed with spines.
It grows 40 to 150 cm (1.3 to 4.9 ft) tall, with large, coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm (3.9 to 7.9 in) long and 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) broad.
The pendant violet flowers are characteristically solitary and approximately 5 cm (2 in) across.
The fruit is a large egg-shaped berry with a glossy surface that varies in color from dark purple to red, pink, yellowish, or white and is sometimes striped; the colour and shape of the white variety is the source of the common name.
There are 25 calories in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of Eggplant. It is composed of 92% water, 6% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and negligible fat.
Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and copper. It is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K. Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.
The health benefits of asparagus include an ability to help build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, reduce the symptoms of anemia, and increase cognition. It improves cardiovascular health and protects the digestive system. Eggplant is also good for weight loss, managing diabetes, reducing stress, protecting infants from birth defects, and even preventing cancer.
The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, or even an astringent quality, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, making for very rich dishes, but salting reduces the amount of oil absorbed.
Due to its texture and bulk, it is sometimes used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian cuisines.
A staple in cuisines of the Mediterranean region, eggplant figures prominently in such classic dishes as the Greek moussaka, the Italian eggplant parmigiana, and the Middle Eastern relish baba ghanoush. It is also frequently served as a baked, grilled, fried, or boiled vegetable and is used as a garnish and in stews.
Eggplant is richer in nicotine than any other edible plant, with a concentration of 100 ng/g (or 0.01mg/100g). However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to passive smoking.
The name “eggplant” developed in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada because the fruits of some eighteenth century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs.
As a nightshade, eggplant is closely related to the tomato and potato.
In China, as part of her “bride price,” a woman must have at least 12 eggplant recipes prior to her wedding day.
In Turkey, “imam bayeldi,” a tasty treat of stuffed eggplant simmered in olive oil is said to have made a religious leader swoon in ecstasy.
When first introduced in Italy, people believed that anyone who ate the “mad apple” was sure to go insane.
Over 60% of eggplants are produced in China alone. India, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran were also major producers.