Featured Vegetable: Eggplant
The Eggplant – Explore its presidential past.
Chances are when you think of an eggplant, you picture a big shiny purple vegetable with a green stem. You may wonder “Why is it called an eggplant?” Actually, eggplants come in hundreds of shapes and colors, including a white variety of eggplant which resembles a giant egg.1
Fun Fact: Some believe that we have Thomas Jefferson to thank for introducing the eggplant that we know and love to the United States.2 An avid gardener, Jefferson loved to import interesting seeds from Europe to grow and breed in his garden at Monticello.3
Use Your Senses - Become an eggplant expert.
Use these tips to take the guesswork out of picking the perfect eggplant. First, look for an eggplant that has a nice, smooth skin without any cracks or discoloration. Choose an eggplant with a rich purple color and a bright green stem.4,5
Avoid oversized eggplants because they tend to taste more bitter.5 How does it feel in your hand? Eggplants should feel heavy for their size. It may help to pick a few eggplants of similar size and compare them. Generally, the heavier the eggplant is for its size, the better the flavor will be.4 Pick up two eggplants and rub them together. Are they squeaky? Although you may catch the eyes’ of other shoppers in the produce aisle, a squeaky eggplant is a fresh eggplant!2 Finally, give it a squeeze. It should have a little give, not too hard or too soft.
Eggplant Storage – Know your eggplant’s likes and dislikes.
Once you get your eggplant home, try to use it within a few days. The sooner you eat it, the better the texture and flavor will be. It is important to note that eggplants don’t do well in cold temperatures. If you have to store it for more than a day, wrap it in plastic before you stick it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and eat it within a week.4
You have the perfect eggplant in your kitchen…now what?
If you have never prepared and cooked an eggplant before, you may feel a bit intimidated by this shiny purple veggie. Skin or no skin? Should you slice it, dice it, or chop it? Here are a few hints that will help you to cook your eggplant like a pro. If the eggplant is young and fresh, go ahead and eat the skin. It is only the older and tougher eggplants that you want to peel before cooking. While you can’t eat eggplant raw, there are many easy ways for you to prepare it including grilled, baked, simmered, roasted, stir-fried and even microwaved! With its sturdy and meaty texture, it is a great substitute as a lower calorie option for meat in certain dishes, like in Eggplant Parmesan. Eggplant’s mild flavor and versatility, makes it a wonderful addition to countless hot or cold appetizers, side dishes and main courses.
Nutritional Highlights: There are many excellent reasons to eat eggplant. First, it is low in calories, with a mere 35 calories per cup of cooked eggplant. A good source of dietary fiber, eggplant provides 2.5g of fiber per cup which can help you to feel full.7 Need another reason to eat eggplant? Eggplants also are rich in antioxidants. Many of these are derivatives of caffeic acid which are among the most powerful antioxidants found in plant tissues1. Anthocynanin, a plant pigment that also has antioxidant properties, gives eggplant it’s purple color and gives us potential health benefits.6
Now that you are an eggplant expert, try some of these delicious recipes and reap the benefits of this purple people pleaser!
- Coconut Tomato Red Curry
- Grilled Halibut with Wheatberry & Vodka Sauce Ratatouille
- Pan-Grilled Veggie & Cheese Sandwiches
- Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille
- Chicken with Feta & Vegetables
1Scientists Get Under Eggplant’s Skin. Agricultural Research Magazine [serial online]. 2004;52:16-18. Available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan04/skin0104.pdf. Accessed May 24,2013.
2Marks M. Selecting and Storing Eggplant. Fruit and Veggies More Matters Web site. 2008. Available at http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/video/VideoCenter.php?Auto=1&start=0&Video=163&SuperSubID=134. Accessed May 23, 2013.
3http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/specialcollections/omeka/exhibits/show/seed/early-19th-century/early-19th-century-american. Early 19th century American catalogues. Accessed May 23, 2013.
4http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/eggplant. Eggplant: Nutrition. Selection. Storage. Accessed May 23, 2013.
5http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442471308&terms=eggplant. Front and Center: Eggplant. Accessed May 23, 2013.
6https://www.msu.edu/course/plb/106/paperchromatography_s06.doc. PAPER CHROMATOGRAPHY SEPARATES PLANT PIGMENTS. Accessed June 7, 2013.
7http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2949?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=eggplant. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 25. Accessed June 7, 2013.