Eggplant was originally named because its previous, but now rarer, color was white and, of course, the Fruit is almost egg- shaped. It is a vegetable that has spawned much consternation and many theories.
In much of Europe, the eggplant is called an “aubergine'’ but it has had a more colorful name in the past a fewcentunes ago northern European people believed that it could produce insanity, which led to it also being called the “Mad Apple.” Long before the Europeans came across it though, eggplant was being grown in India and China. It was introduced to Africa around 1500 years ago and then into Italy in the 14th century. It subsequently spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and, centuries later, was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers.
Although it has a long and rich history, eggplant did not always hold the revered place in food culture that it does today, especially in European cuisines. As a result of the truly bitter taste of the early varieties, it seems that people also felt that it had a bitter disposition hence its link to insanity and also leprosy. For these unfounded reasons for many centuries after its introduction into Europe, eggplant was used more as a decorative garden plant than as a food. Not until new varieties were developed in the 18th century, did eggplant lose its bitter taste and sour reputation leaving it the highly valued plant that we have today.
Your healing eggplant
Eggplant is an excellent source of vitamin C but also provides potassium, iron, niacin and folate. It is low in calories and contains virtually no fat. It is also a rich source of antioxidant nutrients as the rich purple of its skin would suggest.
Research on eggplant has focused on an anthocyanin phytonutrient found in eggplant skin called "nasunin" Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage. In an animal study (Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry) nasunin has been found to protect the fats in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of fats and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform. A healthy cell membrane means a healthy cell.
When laboratory animals with high cholesterol were given eggplant juice, their blood cholesterol, the cholesterol in their artery walls and the cholesterol in their aortas (the aorta is the major artery that returns blood from the heart back into circulation into the body) was significantly reduced, while the walls of their blood vessels relaxed, improving blood flow. The results of this study were published in Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia (Arq Bras Cardiol). The journal of the Brazilian Society of Cardiology. The researchers believe these positive effects were likely due not only to nasunin but also to several other terpene phytonutnents in eggplant.
Eating your eggplant
Some people can find eggplant bitter on some occasions. To avoid a bitter taste, soak the flesh in salted water and then drain and rinse before use. This will not always be necessary and depends largely on taste but if the seeds are beginning to darken, it will be best to salt it. Otherwise the fruit should be fresh and young enough to use immediately.
You can bake eggplant whole, or halved and stuffed, fry tin oil, but beware because it soaks up fat like blotting paper. To minimize this, let it stand after frying and much of the oil will dram out again.
A note of caution
Eggplant is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates; naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating eggplant.
Oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body, but the overwhelming benefits of a food like eggplant make the small amount of activity in this regard something that
should not bother you.
Eggplant is one of the vegetables in the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family, which includes capsicum, tomatoes, and potatoes. There is evidence that some people, who have nightshade intolerance issues, may experience worsening of arthritis symptoms when eating these foods so do your own experiments and see how you go.
Grow Your Eggplant
When to plant: Plant seedlings — a good way to get your crop going quickly — or sow seeds directly into ground in spring. Space about 60cm apart. Eggplants need a long and hot growing season with ideal temperatures ranging from 21°C-30°C.
Climate: Grows all year in the tropics and warmer climates where plants remain productive over more than one season. In cooler climates it is treated as an annual that usually survives in the warmer months. Frost sensitive.
Aspect/placement: Likes full sun. but on very hot days protect fruit from scorching.
Specific needs: Likes well-drained organic soil, prepare with well-rotted manure before planting. In cooler climates select fast-maturing varieties. Plants reach about one meter and might need staking. Mulch with pea straw, leaving the stem exposed. Water young plants regularly and feed with liquid seaweed. Will grow in a pot.