Nature has gifted us a lot of amazing things. Fruits, water, vegetables, and many more things we need in our daily life. We consume some, and we use some for other purposes. Nature has given us free hands, but we need to learn which is best for what purpose. If there were no vegetable plants in the world, think about what we could have eaten?
Out of numerous vegetative plants, eggplant is what we consume by preparing it as our food. Different names in different countries call it, and it is a plant species from the nightshade family Solanaceae. Solanum melongena can be seen across the world grown for its edible fruit. This is called Brinjal in India, and many recipes are made as a vegetable from this spongy and absorbent fruit.
By botanical definition, it is a berry. Since it is a member of the genus Solanum, it is related to chilli pepper, tomato, and potato. It is widely used to prepare many dishes because it tends to absorb oil and flavors thanks to its fleshy fruit feature. However, singularly it is low in macronutrients and micronutrients. Eggplant is domesticated from the original wild nightshade species thorn or bitter apple, S. in arcanum.
A special fruit- This delicate, tropical perennial plant is cultivated as a tender or half-hardy annual in temperate climates. While its stem is spiny, the flowers are white to purple with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. Its fruit bears different colours and shapes based on the cultivation. Eggplant grows 40 to 150 cm tall with large and coarsely lobed leaves of 10 to 20 cm long and 5 to 10 cm broad.
Significance of Name: The origin of all the aubergine-type names is from Dravidian languages, including Malayalam and Tamil, the modern descendants of Dravidian. The Dravidian word was taken into the Indo-Aryan languages giving ancient forms like Pali, Sanskrit, and Prakrit. Based on the quality of eggplant to cure flatulence, it was named Brinjal, the class that removes wind disorder, thus giving the modern name ‘baingan.’
Though the common cultivation was purple, different cultivators produced different fruit sizes, colours, and shapes. Easter white eggplant is the least produced variety of white fruit. They are also known as Casper or garden eggs. India demonstrates the broadest range of sizes, shapes, and colour eggplant cultivation with the large cultivation region between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. In colour, it varies from white to yellow or green, reddish-purple, bright pink, dark purple, deep purple, and even black. See the different types below.
- Slim cultivators in purple-black skin include ‘Ichiban’, ‘Tycoon’, ‘Little Fingers’, and ‘Pingtung Long’.
- Oval and elongated oval-shaped black-skinned ‘Burpee Hybrid’, ‘Black Magic’, Dusky’, Harris Special Hibush’, and others.
- White-skinned egg-shaped ‘Casper’ and ‘Easter Egg’.
- Bicolored ‘Rosa Blanca’, ‘Bianca Sfumata di Rosa’, ‘Prosperosa’.
- Bicoloured cultivators with striping ‘Udumalpet’, ‘Listada di Gandia’.
- S. m. var. depressum – dwarf aubergine
- S. m. var. esculentum – common aubergine including a white variety
- S. m. var. serpentium – snake aubergine
Huge Production: By the end of the year 2018, overall world production of eggplant reached 54 million tonnes, with China contributing 63 per cent and India contributing 24 percent. The following three major producers are Egypt, Turkey, and Iran. On the ingredient part, the browning of eggplant flesh is because of oxidation of Polyphenols like chlorogenic acid, and purple skin is due to anthocyanin nasunin.
Interesting Facts about Eggplant
- Eggplant fruit like heat, it usually grows best in average temperatures of 20-25 degrees.
- There is no need to peel off the skin of the fruit, you can just cut it into pieces and cook them.
- Eggplant fruit contains nicotine but in small content of about 0.01 percent. If one eats 9 kgs of fruit then it will be equivalent to one cigarette.
- Raw fruit consumption is not advisable like other fruits because it gives stomach problems. In China, people do eat green fruits raw but it is not worth doing so.
- It is best to store eggplant fruit outside the fridge but in cool places.
- Eggplants have different names country wise, India Brinjal, Eggplant (US), Berenjena (Spanish), Melanzana (Italian), and Patlican (Turkish)
- Along with commonly seen purple, it comes in colors like white, green, and white strips too.
- Though eggplant fruit is fruit, it is always cooked to eat as a vegetable.
- The original place of Eggplant is India.
- The eggplant can grow as long as 5 to 6 meters.
- Arabs, in the 15th century, first brought eggplant fruit to Spanish Andalusia, Europe.
- An average eggplant fruit contains 95 percent of water and 50 percent volume is air.
- You get a lot of moussaka as one eggplant can grow about 110 fruits.
- Asia uses eggplant fruit most in the cuisine followed by Turkey and the Middle East.
- The name ‘eggplant’ was developed in the United States, Australia, and Canada. The fruit was yellow or white and looked like eggs.
- The cultivation of eggplant in India and China dates back as 1500 years.
- The ‘berry’ is a part of the nightshade family which also consists of potatoes and tomatoes.
- As a part of growth, slowly eggplant was introduced to countries in Europe and Africa. North America received it from Spaniards.
- Till the early 1800s, America started growing white and purple varieties.
- More than 60 percent of the eggplants are grown in China. Other major countries are India, Turkey, Egypt, and Iran.
- Eggplants are also commonly known as ‘aubergine’. It is interesting that the word aubergine comes from the ancient language of ‘Sanskrit’.
- Eggplants are an excellent source of fiber and nutrients.
- Most producers grow eggplants as an annual and they plow destroy the plants after harvesting the fruit but it is usually a perennial plant.
- Consuming the flowers or leaves of eggplant can be dangerous to human health as it produces solanine, a natural pesticide for a plant that is poisonous.
- Eggplant is a high source of antioxidants and it is one of the top 10 plants in terms of Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity.
Benefits of Aubergine
- High in Antioxidants – Along with vitamins and minerals, it contains rich antioxidants, reducing the risk of health.
- Rich in Many Nutrients – Nutrient-dense food with carbs, folate, manganese, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
- May Promote Blood Sugar Control – natural Polyphenols can help in reducing blood sugar.
- May Reduce Risk of Heart Disease – Can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides levels.
- Very Easily Available – One can go to market and buy aplenty without having to search, such as the ease of availability.
- May Help in Weight Loss – High in fiber and low in calories.
- May Have Cancer-Fighting Benefits – A compound solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides can cause the death of cancer cells, according to some animal studies.
Though most studies of the above benefits are done on animal species, there is a high chance it can also be efficient on human beings. As eggplant fruit is a typical food in most of Asia, it can be a health-conscious diet with more studies in the future.
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