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Beans: Broad beans »« Asparagus

Aubergine/Eggplant

Solanum melongena


Description

With its glossy purple skin and meaty texture, the eggplant is an attractive and tasty addition to meat and vegetable dishes.

A member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, capsicums and potatoes, the eggplant has a long association with Mediterranean cooking, despite its Asian origins. Several varieties are available in New Zealand, the most common being a large, deep purple, oval fruit, but they can range from small and green to long and pale purple with white streaks. Most taste similar to one another.

Eggplant is a good source of folate and potassium, and is believed to block the formation of free radicals. Look for firm, heavy eggplants without dents or bruises, and which have bright green stems.

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History

Despite being so popular in European dishes, the eggplant was unknown to the Western world before the 1500s. Native to India and surrounding countries, it was cultivated in China from the 5th century BC. It was probably brought to Europe by Arabic peoples.

Surprisingly, given its popularity as a food, eggplant was used mostly as a decorative garden plant in Europe until the 18th century. The extremely bitter taste of early varieties gave it a reputation for causing a number of maladies, including leprosy and insanity, and it wasn’t until tastier varieties were developed that it found its place in the kitchen.

Uses

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable, and works well when teamed with meat or as the main event in a vegetarian meal. Often it can even be substituted for meat. Many recipe books will call for eggplant to be salted first to draw out the bitterness; in most cases this is no longer necessary due to new varieties lacking this bitterness.

For barbecued eggplant, thickly slice eggplant lengthways, brush with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and barbecue until soft. From here you can add it to a salad or burger, or just eat it as a vegetable.

Baba ghanoush is a popular Turkish dip, made with pureed eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.

Facts

Eggplant contains more nicotine than any other plant – but you’d have to eat 9kg of it in one sitting to get the same amount as in a single cigarette.

Botanically, the eggplant isn’t actually a vegetable, but a berry.

The name ‘eggplant’ comes from the fact that some 18th century cultivars were white or yellow and shaped like a goose egg.



Beans: Broad beans »« Asparagus

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