Eggplant. Aubergine. Guinea squash. Brinjal. Melongene. Did you know that these are all different names for the same item?
Many of us conjure up an image of a dark purple oblong object with a stem at the top. However, not all eggplants look like this. In fact, according to Fine Gardening, the eggplant got its name from the European version in the 1700s that looked like large goose or chicken eggs! White in color and round in shape, they truly looked like eggs growing from the ground. Today there are many varieties of eggplant, including Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Lebanese eggplants. While size and shape vary, many of them resemble the eggplant we recognize today with the shiny dark purple skin. Cutting an eggplant open reveals a white meaty part along with white or brown seeds. It’s the presence of these seeds that classify eggplant as a fruit, not a vegetable!
Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family, which causes some people to be wary of their safety. While eating the leaves or stems can be poisonous, eating the fruit and flesh is considered safe.
According to learning website Wonderopolis, approximately 90% of today’s eggplant production comes from five countries including Iran, Egypt, China, India and Turkey. Agricultural Marketing Research Center states that only approximately 7,000 acres in the United States is used for eggplant farming, with the largest acreage in New Jersey, California, Georgia and Florida.
Eggplant contains a variety of health benefits. Medical News Today reports that eggplants are high in fiber and antioxidants. The nutrients contained in eggplant are beneficial for digestive health, heart health, eye health, cholesterol, weight management, cognitive function and cancer prevention.
Who should not eat eggplant? If you are low in iron, limit the amount of eggplant you consume. Nasunin is a phytochemical that causes iron chelation (removing iron from the cells). Those who are prone to kidney stones may want to limit or avoid eggplant due to their oxalates, which can lead to kidney stone formation. Though uncommon, some people do experience an allergy to eggplant.
Eggplant can be baked, fried or roasted for ultimate flavor. Often used as a meat substitute, eggplant burgers, eggplant parmigiana and more make a delicious plant-based meal. Add eggplant to ratatouille, make eggplant fries, add to spaghetti sauces, pan fry or bake with bread crumb topping, add to pizza and much more. Eggplant is a delicious part of a healthy Mediterranean diet!