Hello my dear readers,
Another Monday is here. Hope you had a great weekend and you’re ready for the new week!
Eating seasonal food is an important choice for our health. Buying vegetables in the right months allows you to fully enjoy its nutritional value and flavor.
September is a month full of fresh vegetables, there are still all the summer vegetables and the autumn-winter vegetables are starting to appear. One of September’s seasonal vegetables are eggplants or maybe better known as aubergines.
Eggplant is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.
There are many sizes and shapes, with skin colors ranging from blackish purple to florescent purplish green to gold or even white. In addition, some varieties produce lovely bicolor or striped skin and it has a dense, uniform and firm, white flesh.
The most widespread varieties of eggplants in Europe and North America are ovoid and oblong, they are between 12-25 cm in length and 6-9 cm in width, and have a dark or light purple skin.
In India and other regions of Asia many other types of eggplants are cultivated, different in shape, size and color. The fruits of the larger cultivars exceed 1 kg of weight and grow in the region between the Gange and Yamuna rivers.
The origins of the eggplants are not really certain, but it seems that this type of vegetable has spread initially in the warm areas of southern Asia and more precisely in India, known as brinjal, as well as in China, where it is probable that this vegetable was been already cultivated in prehistory.
It was only around 1400 that the eggplant was introduced, by the Arabs, into the western regions and into Europe, especially in the areas which, for climatic reasons, were more favorable to their growth.
In China, is said that prior to her wedding day, as part of her “bride price,” a woman must have at least 12 eggplant recipes. In Turkey, “imam bayeldi,” a tasty treat of stuffed eggplant simmered in olive oil is said to have made a religious leader swoon in ecstasy. When first introduced in Italy, people believed that anyone who ate the “mad apple” was sure to go insane.
Today there are approximately 15-20 different varieties of eggplant, grown primarily in China.
For the growth of the aubergine plant it is necessary that the temperature remains high enough both day and night (the optimal temperature would be 15-16 °C at night and 22-26 °C during the day, without ever exceeding the 30-32 °C).
Eggplant is a frost tender, heat loving, branching bushy plant with thick, woody stems. The green to grayish green leaves are large, lobed, and alternate with the underside typically covered with spiny fuzz. Mature plants range from 40 to 150 cm in height. Although eggplant is a perennial, it is more commonly grown as an annual.
Eggplants are not easy to cultivate, and they need a well-drained soil rich in fertilizer.
If the soil is not well irrigated, the plant produces fruits that do not reach the right size and consequently have a taste that is too bitter and spicy, as well as having a stringy pulp. Regular irrigation therefore ensures that the production of eggplants is good both in terms of quality and quantity.
The plant has taproots, and therefore needs a rather deep soil and the seedlings must be planted at a distance of at least 40-50 cm from each other.
Eggplant fruit is edible once it reaches one-third its mature size and regular harvest helps maintain consistent fruit production.
In ancient times the Eggplant was preserved and consumed in brine, enriched with aromatic and spicy spices and more recently, during the Second World War (1939-1945), the eggplant leaves were dried in the sun and used by the peasants to replace the tobacco, then not obtainable, for the packaging of cigarettes and cigars.
The history of eggplants, although not continuous and rather troubled over the centuries, still has ancient origins that date back to prehistoric times, to the point of becoming more and more rooted in modern culture, where its great versatility in the kitchen has given enormous space in the fruit and vegetable modern market.
Eggplant is versatile and can be roasted, grilled, baked, stewed, stuffed, dried, braised, mashed, pickled, pureed, or breaded and fried.
Eggplant is one of the “sponges” of the edible kingdom and “salting” or “soaking” prior to cooking help reduce its natural absorption tendencies and removes any lingering bitterness.
Because of their unpleasant taste, poor digestibility and significant solanine content (toxic molecule), raw aubergines are NOT considered edible. Through cooking, these characteristics are totally eliminated obtaining a rich and complex flavor.
Eggplant slices, due to their shape and consistency, can be used as a replacement for meat in vegan and vegetarian cuisine.
Eggplant is widely used in the cuisine of many countries around the world. It is adopted mainly by the Indian people, for example in the traditional dishes such: Sambhar, Dalma (Odisha recipe), Chutney (condiments), Curry and Achar.
With regard to its versatility and its wide daily use, the eggplant is often described by the Indian people (baingan) as the “queen of vegetables”.
Roasted, peeled, mashed, mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices, then cooked over low heat, they are the main ingredient of the famous Indian and Pakistani dish Baingan ka Bhartha or Ojju, similar to Romanian Salata de Vinete.
Another very popular version in Bangladesh and in the eastern states of India (Odisha and West Bengal) is Begun-Pora (with charred or burnt aubergines); in this case, the vegetable pulp is mixed with raw and chopped shallots, green peppers, salt, fresh coriander and mustard oil.
Sometimes, fried tomatoes and fried potatoes are also added to create a dish called Begun Bhorta.
In a recipe called Bharli Vangi, eggplants are stuffed with coconut, peanuts, Masala and are cooked in oil.
Eggplants are frequently cooked in stew, as in the French Ratatouille, or fried, as in the Italian Parmigiana, the Turkish Karniyarik and the Greek Moussaka.
Eggplants are also roasted whole; the peel is then removed and mixed with other ingredients such as lemon, tahini and garlic. The recipe is of Arabic origin and is called Baba Ghanoush; very similar, the Greek Melitzanosalata.
In Romania, roasted eggplantss are mixed with roasted red peppers, chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, celery and spices; the recipe is called Zacusca, also known as Ajvar in Croatia and the Balkans.
A Spanish dish called Escalivada involves mixing strips of roasted eggplant, pepper, onion and tomato.
In the Caucasus, they are fried and stuffed with walnut paste to make up the Badrijani Nigvziani.
Eggplants are also present in Chinese cuisine, in braised, stewed, steamed or stuffed form.
Eggplants are vegetables with a diuretic and draining power given the large amount of water they are made of, around 92%. The remaining percentage mainly includes fibers (3.4%) and proteins, fats and sugars. Rich in beta-carotene, eggplant is a true concentrate of minerals, primarily potassium, but also magnesium and calcium as well as vitamins especially A, B and C.
Nutritionally speaking, eggplant is a low-calorie food with a low content of energy molecules, fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Thanks to the richness in fiber, eggplants are a useful vegetable to keep cholesterol at bay and above all to regulate intestinal functions. The fiber also stimulates the production of gastric juices that aid digestion.
The iron content, together with that of calcium, as well as some phenolic compounds, is also very useful for bone health, reducing osteoporosis symptoms and contributing to greater bone density.
As the “queen of vegetables”, eggplant is featured in the dishes of virtually every household in India, regardless of food preferences, income levels and social status. Eggplants or brinjal has embedded itself deeply into the Indian culture and there are even numerous folk songs in Indian languages regarding this humble vegetable. Brinjal is grown on nearly 550,000 hectares in India, making the country the second largest producer after China with a 26% world production share, with major producing states West Bengal (30% production share).
Join me next time and let’s discover Kolkata, also known as Calcutta, the capital of the West Bengal.
Thank you all for reading.
And last but not least, don’t procrastinate. You want to be happy? Choose to be happy Today. Not yesterday and not perhaps tomorrow. Today. Because we are human beings and therefore not eternal.
Have a wonderful week! See you next time!
And don’t forget to always treat yourself in style.
Photo credit Popsicle Society & Google Images edited by Popsicle Society