The eggplant index
Prior to the 18th century, eggplant was less popular than it is now due to its distinctly bitter taste. It was also mistakenly thought to cause insanity, leprosy and cancer.
Aubergine, a.k.a. eggplant
n. the purple egg-shaped fruit of a tropical Old World plant, which is eaten as a vegetable
Oxford English Dictionary
To the British and French, eggplant is known as aubergine. Other names include brinjal, melongene and Guinea squash.
A member of the genus Solanum, eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which also includes potatoes, sweet peppers and tomatoes. Botanically it is considered a berry.
Eggplant is an excellent source of dietary fibre, bone-building manganese, vitamin K and magnesium, as well as heart-healthy copper, vitamins C and B6, folate and niacin.
Eggplant is considered a brain food because it contains powerful antioxidants that protect cell membranes in the brain from damage. It has also been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, help prevent cancer and alleviate rheumatoid arthritis.
Prized for its beauty, the North American eggplant is pear shaped – with glossy, deep purple skin and cream-coloured flesh.
It can be roasted and puréed, grilled, baked or stir fried. Because of its mild flavour and spongy texture, eggplant often acts as a backdrop in dishes with more assertive flavours. It is the centrepiece of such Middle Eastern and European dishes as baba ghanoush, moussaka and ratatouille. It is widely used in Indian dishes such as bharta (eggplant curry).
Native to the Indian subcontinent, the first known record of its cultivation was in 5th-century China. It was introduced to Africa in the Middle Ages and then brought to Italy in the 14th century, eventually reaching the Middle East where it has become a staple of that cuisine. Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China and Japan are the leading growers of eggplant.
Prior to the 18th century, eggplant was less popular than it is now due to its distinctly bitter taste. It was also mistakenly thought to cause insanity, leprosy and cancer. Newer, milder varieties have redeemed its reputation.
Some cooks like to slice and lightly salt eggplant 30 minutes before cooking. This reduces the natural bitterness and lowers the water content, making it absorb less oil.
shapes and sizes
Eggplants vary in size from 12–25cm long to 6–9cm long. Colours vary from white, yellow-green, reddish-purple to dark purple, and variegated red, orange or green with white. Lesser known varieties are red, pink and yellow. It can be egg-shaped, round, or long and slender.