By Titilayo Kupoliyi
The eggplant is a nightshade vegetable, like potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.
This versatile vegetable comes in a variety of colours and shapes, oval, long and slim, and melon-shaped eggplants with white, green, pink, orange, and even striped skin.
It originally comes from India and Asia, where it still grows wild and Eggplants made it way to Europe with the Islamic empire in the 7th and 8th centuries.
It is called Igba in Yoruba language, the Igbos call it añara and known as Shuka Kwai among the Hausas. it is also known Aubergine and Brinjal.
Historians believe the British coined the term eggplant during their occupation of India.
Eggplant has a rich, meaty inside that takes on a creamy consistency when you cook it. The hearty texture makes it a good stand-in for meat.
Eggplant comes in these varieties:
- Dusky or classic – the familiar eggplant shape with shiny purple skin
- Epic – teardrop-shaped with purple-black skin
- Black bell -pear-shaped with glossy black skin
- Ghostbuster – long, white, oval
- Ichiban -long, thin, purple
- Slim Jim – thin, bright purple
- Easter egg – small, oval that’s coloured white, orange, yellow, or green
Health Benefits of Eggplants
The eggplant has been an ingredient in traditional medicine for thousands of years. In the ancient Indian system of ayurvedic medicine, practitioners used white eggplant to treat diabetes and the roots to relieve asthma.
While eggplant isn’t the most nutritious vegetable, it does give you a decent supply of potassium and fiber. And at just 25 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per serving, it’s a pretty guilt free food as long as you don’t soak it in oil.
However, Eggplant and other nightshade vegetables have the chemical solanine, which some people claim adds to inflammation and makes diseases like arthritis worse, though, there is no solid evidence that the small amount of solanine in eggplant worsens arthritis symptoms. But if you notice that your joint pain flares up after you eat eggplant, avoid it.
Eggplant has antioxidants like vitamins A and C, which help protect your cells against damage. It’s also high in natural plant chemicals called polyphenols, which may help cells do a better job of processing sugar if you have diabetes.
Early laboratory studies in cells suggest that eggplant protects against the type of DNA damage that leads to cancer.
Rarely, people are allergic to eggplant. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include a rash, swelling of the face, itching, hives, and a hoarse voice.
Ways Eggplant can be Prepared
Before you cook eggplant, wash it and cut off both ends. The skin is ok to eat, but you might want to remove it if you find it too chewy.
Eggplant is naturally a little bitter. Sprinkle it with salt and let it sit for 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the bitterness. It will also prevent the eggplant from absorbing too much oil and becoming greasy during cooking. Rinse off the salt before you cook it.
You can roast, bake, steam, or sauté eggplant. When it’s cut up, it makes a good addition to curries and soups.
And, of course, a favorite recipe is eggplant parmesan, but keep in mind that rolling eggplant in breadcrumbs and frying it in oil will add calories and fat. To make a lighter version, bake the eggplant instead of frying it.