The Many Shades of Eggplant

Eggplants are not actually vegetables, they are fruit, specifically berries. A member of the nightshade family, they are related to tomatoes, potatoes, okra, and peppers. The eggplant’s many names include: Aubergine (UK), Brinjal (India), Berenjena (Spanish), Eggplant (US English), Patlican (Turkish) and Melanzana (Italian). Eggplants originated in southern India where they continue to grow wild and are considered to be the King of Vegetables. The first known documentation of the existence of eggplants is in Sanskrit literature around 300 BC.

There are approximately 15-20 species of eggplant. In our gardens we are currently growing Black beauty, Ichiban, and Rosa Bianca. They vary in size, shape and color from small and round to long and curvy. According to a 5th century Chinese scroll, fashionable Chinese women used to make a dye out of the skin of purple eggplants and polish their teeth with it until they were a shiny gray.

In England, a few centuries ago, eggplants were thought to cause madness, but we now know they are beneficial to health, not detrimental.

Eggplants are a favorite among dieters because of their low caloric content, low carbohydrates, and high nutrient content.

According to foodfacts.mercola.com:

“While eggplants don’t have an overwhelming supply of any one nutrient, they do contain an impressive array across the board of many vitamins and minerals, such as excellent amounts of fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, and B6, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, and pantothenic acid.

Studies indicate that eggplant has a number of health benefits from all these ingredients, as well as traditional uses. Sometimes, the leaves and roots are juiced or boiled to make a tonic for throat and stomach troubles, asthma, skin diseases, rheumatism, inflammation, intestinal hemorrhages, foot pain, coughs, anorexia, toothache, or as a general stimulant.

Modern-day scientists found that the Black Magic variety of eggplant contains nearly three times the amount of antioxidant phenolics they found in other eggplant types. Phenols are known to be one of the most powerful free radical scavengers, which can prevent cancer development and heart disease, but it’s these very attributes that give eggplants a slight bitter taste.

Another study found that anthocyanin phytonutrients in the skin of eggplants, called nasunin, is a potent antioxidant that zaps free radicals and protects the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes from damage.”

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