Solanum melongena is a member of the Solanaceae of vegetables, grown worldwide as a culinary vegetable. Eggplant is actually a fruit, containing many fine, edible seeds. The skin of an Eggplant ranges in colour from a deep purple, almost black, to a light purple with creamy streaks. The most common variety found in New Zealand is purple skinned.
Eggplant contains modest amounts of manganese, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamins B6, B3 and fibre. It is also a good source of antioxidants, mainly anthocyanins, including nasunin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Nasunin is an antioxidant which has been shown to protect cell membranies form damage and support cardiovascular health. As well supporting cellular health, Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants known to support eye health.
Eggplants should be firm and somewhat heavy for their size, with smooth, glossy skin and an intense purple hue. Avoid any that appear withered, bruised, or discoloured.
Store them in the refrigerator until they are ready for use. Leaving the skin intact will keep them fresher for longer.
When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel, not a carbon steel, knife to prevent a chemical reaction that can cause the eggplant to turn black.
Raw eggplant can have a bitter taste, with an astringent quality, but it becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavour. Eggplant are most often cooked in oil or butter.
Because of its texture and bulk, it is sometimes used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian cuisines.
Cooking: Eggplant can be steamed, stir-fried, pan fried, deep fried, barbecued, roasted, stewed, curried, or pickled. Eggplant can be stuffed, the stuffing usually consists of mixing the flesh of the eggplant with meat, cheese or vegetables and replacing in the skin before baking in the oven.
Although eggplant is low in calories, it can absorb a lot of oil during frying. If you are watching your calories, grilling or air frying would be a better cooking method.
Eggplant pizza crust: Replace pizza crust with sliced eggplant and add tomato sauce, cheese, and other toppings for a gluten free, low calorie treat.
Eggplant side dish: Saute or stir-fry chunks of eggplant in olive oil and serve it as a side.
Burger garnish: Cut an eggplant lengthwise into thick slices and grill them. Serve them alone or in a burger.
Oven-baked eggplant fries: Slice an eggplant into strips or wedges and bake them.
Eggplant pasta topping: Cut an eggplant into thick slices, then bread and bake them or saute them and add the strips to a pasta dish. Top the slices with Parmesan cheese to make eggplant Parmesan.
Ratatouille: Saute eggplant, onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, and tomato in a little olive oil to make ratatouille, a stewed vegetable dish.
Vegetable lasagna: Use the ratatouille above to replace the meat layer in lasagna.
Baba ghanoush: This is a popular Middle Eastern dip of grilled eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and spices. Some people add yogurt.
NOTE: Nasunin, one of the antioxidants found in eggplants, binds with iron and removes it from cells. This process, known as iron chelation, may be useful for people who have too much iron in their bodies.
People with very low levels of iron should not consume large amounts of foods that contain nasunin, as this could result in lowering their iron levels further.
Eggplant also contains oxylates, which may not be suitable for people prone to kidney stones. Anyone with this condition should limit their intake of oxalate-containing foods.