12 Things You Didn't Know About Eggplant
August 14, 2015
Eggplants love oil, hate the fridge, and come in many shapes and colors, but what else don’t you know about this aubergine?
12 Things You Didn't Know About Eggplant
If eggplants could talk, they would tell you to douse them in oil and cook them on high, and that if you treat them right, they won’t be bitter. Eggplant, called aubergine in the UK and in French, is one of the most versatile ingredients in terms of shape, color, and size, appearing in glossy shades of white, purple, orange, green, and striped combinations of one or more. This staple is served grilled, fried, sautéed, steamed, and, on occasion, raw in almost every cuisine, from Italian to Indian.
Eggplant seeds contain nicotine, and eggplant has the highest concentration of nicotine of any plant. The nicotine gives eggplants that characteristically bitter flavor, but don’t worry too much, because 20 pounds of eggplant contain only as much nicotine as one cigarette. Try some eggplant in this Eggplant Parmesan recipe.
Thomas Jefferson is credited with bringing the first eggplant cultivar (a plant variety produced through cultivation) to the United States in the eighteenth century. Today, Georgia, Florida, and California grow most of the United State’s eggplant crop. Try aubergine in this Eggplant Rollatini recipe.
The fruit of the eggplant ranges in size from 1.2 to 12 inches and up depending on the cultivar, but smaller eggplants tend to taste less bitter. Try some of the bitter berry in this Hot and Sour Chinese Eggplant recipe.
Shutterstock / Nataliya Arzamasova
Eggplants contain a fair amount of nasunin. This powerful antioxidant protects the lipids surrounding brain cell membranes, keeping free radicals out and your head healthy. Keep your brain healthy with this Grilled Eggplant and Quinoa Salad recipe.
Despite its strong association with Italian and Mediterranean cuisines, the eggplant originated in Asia, with wild varietals still found in a vast reagion from India to southern China. The Chinese were the first to cultivate the plant in the area between southern China and Cambodia in the fifth century B.C. Eggplant didn’t arrive in Western Europe until the fourteenth century. Try some eggplant in this Warm Indian Eggplant Dip recipe.
While you might wonder why a plant named eggplant looks nothing like an egg, the cultivar popular in the eighteenth century, when the plant acquired this name, did in fact look like a small, white hen’s egg. These eggplants are sometimes still seen at farmers markets. Pair eggs and eggplant in this Eggs in Purgatory with Eggplant dish.
Made in China
China, the original cultivators of eggplant, also grow the most eggplant in the world. China grows more than 28 million tons of eggplant annually. Try some eggplant in this Chinese dish: Roasted Halibut with Sichuan Eggplant.
After eggplant made its way into Indian cuisine, rumors of its maddening effect spread. Unfortunately for the eggplant, the words for madness and eggplant share some resemblance. Later, the eggplant’s reputation suffered further assault this time at the hands of ninth-century Arab doctors, who warned that consuming eggplant could cause melancholia, liver problems, inflammations of the mouth, cancer, and, bizarrely, freckles. Take a chance on the controversial eggplant with this Morroccan Eggplant Salad recipe.
Picking Your Eggplant
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Look for healthy green stems and shiny skin for your favorite eggplant recipe, and never wrap your eggplant in plastic wrap — they need room to breathe. (Be careful, though: the papery mantle that surrounds the stem on some varieties of eggplant is barbed with tiny thorns.) Try aubergine in this Harrissa Lamb Stuffed Eggplant recipe.
Like the tomato, the eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, but neither fruit is poisonous. Try these harmless members of the nightshade family together in this Roasted Green Tomatoes and Eggplant Stack recipe.
Quick Growth Spurt
It only takes 60 days from planting to harvest, despite the eggplant’s potentially large size. Try some eggplant in this Char-Baked Tomato, Zucchini, and Eggplant recipe.