Eggplant is a very versatile vegetable. It can be roasted, grilled, fried, steamed, sautéed or cooked. It is high in water content and low in calories at just 18 calories per half-cup of cooked eggplant and provides some fibre, vitamin C and iron.
Eggplant history dates back to early China. When the eggplant made its way to Europe, however, Europeans gave it an unflattering nickname – “mala insana,” which means the “apple of madness.”
According to food historians, the eggplant gained that name as a result of being in the nightshade family. Some nightshade plants are poisonous, and tomatoes also were shunned because they were believed to be deadly.
Eggplant, known as “aubergine” in France, is used in a variety of international cuisines. Its mild flavour and sponge-like texture absorb the flavour of added ingredients, such as garlic, basil and oregano. Here’s some popular dishes that feature eggplant:
Ratatouille:A Mediterranean dish combining eggplant with zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and spices.
Eggplant Parmesan:An Italian dish featuring eggplant dipped in egg and bread crumbs, then lightly fried and topped with tomato sauce and cheese. Moussaka:A Greek favourite of eggplant layered with a spiced meat filling and a creamy sauce.
Babaganoush:Another popular Greek recipe that includes eggplant, garlic, parsley and tahini (sesame seed paste).
Pick up an eggplant and give it a try on your menu. Choose one with shiny skin and no dark spots, which indicate decayed areas. Although the peel can be eaten, more mature eggplants will have a tougher skin.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.