Eggplants. As part of fruits and veggies month, Thrive! is featuring a few favorite fruits and veggies. A whopping 90 percent of adults and children don’t get enough fruits and veggies. So, add this one to your shopping list this week!
Eggplants are one of the fruits most commonly mistaken as a vegetable and have been documented as a part of the world’s agricultural landscape since early BCE.
Originally reported in China and India, there is speculation that the eggplants earliest uses were medicinal rather than for food. Eggplants grow from the nightshade plant and were originally thought to be poisonous because the vast majority are toxic to humans. However, as society and medicine advances, it was found that nightshades could be used as a pain reliever and muscle relaxer.
Used for a variety of practices and dishes in the Eastern Hemisphere for centuries, eggplants made their way to Europe in the 14th century and are featured in a number of Italian dishes. By the 18th century, Thomas Jefferson introduced eggplants to America and established them as a global cuisine.
- The fruit was once thought to be poisonous because of it is in the same plant species as Atropa belladonna, or “Deadly Nightshade.”
- They are called eggplants because some varieties are white and looked like eggs hanging from their stalks.
- Eggplants are frequently substituted for meat in vegetarian dishes because of their texture and flavor.
For all you seasonal fruit eaters or those just looking to try something new, you’re in luck. Eggplant season is right around the corner! Eggplants are in peak production from July to October in the northern hemisphere. New Jersey produces the most eggplants in the world and if you are lucky enough to live in the mid-Atlantic region, be sure to get your eggplants as the season starts.
The most common eggplants featured at your local grocer are a deep glossy purple and roughly eight inches in length. However, they come in varied shapes, sizes, and colors. One species is small, round, and white. Some are small round and purple, closely resembling grapes. Others are even elongated and green and easily mistaken for an unripe tomato.
WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR
To get the freshest produce and avoid a bitter taste shopper should look for several things. First, make sure the skin of the eggplant is shiny and smooth. Rough or dulling skin is an indicator that the fruit has been on the shelf too long. Second, in this case, smaller is better. Smaller eggplants tend to be less bitter and more flavorful.
Eggplants are a great antioxidant and high in fiber, Vitamin b1, and manganese. Fiber helps with proper digestion and lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, helps convert carbohydrates to supply the body with the energy it needs throughout the day. Manganese helps with many bodily functions such as maintaining metabolic rates, and proper nerve and brain functioning. With so many nutritional benefits, there is no reason not to add eggplants to your diet today!
The first step in storing eggplants is to make sure that you purchase the freshest bunch in the grocery store, so they are preserved longer. Eggplants can be left unrefrigerated for about two days before they begin to rot. If you plan on cooking with them the day after purchase, this is the right option for you. If not, stick the eggplants in your refrigerator, and they will be fresh anywhere from five to seven days.
HOW TO ENJOY
Eggplants are best enjoyed cooked, as the heat brings out their natural flavor and when left raw they can taste bitter and bland. Eggplants can be baked into a variety of dishes, but grilling preserves most of the fruits nutritional value.
For those looking for a classic dish, try eggplant parmesan. A healthy vegetarian alternative to chicken parmesan, this dish is flavorful and can be made in several variations.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter to add to your summer cuisine, try Quinoa Stuffed Eggplants. With flavorful quinoa and a parmesan twist, this recipe is sure to add some new variety to your diet.