Eggplant or Brinjal is a very low-calorie vegetable. Nonetheless, it packed with healthy nutrition profile; good news for weight watchers! The veggie is popularly known as aubergine in the western world.
Botanically, aubergine belongs to the Solanaceae family of vegetables. It is a perennial plant native to the Indian subcontinent and grown in many tropical and semitropical regions as a popular vegetable all around the year.
Scientific name: Solanum melongena.
Several varieties of aubergines grown all around the world. They vary widely in size, shape, and color depending upon the cultivar type. Aubergines fall into two broad categories, either oval shaped, or thin and elongated.
The plant reaches about 3-4 feet tall in quick time and bears many bright fruits. Each fruit has smooth, glossy skin. Internally, it features off-white color pulp with numerous centrally arranged small, soft seeds. Fruits are harvested when they reach maturity but just short of full stage ripeness.
Health Benefits of Eggplant (aubergine)
Eggplant is very low in calories and fats but rich in soluble fiber content. 100 g provides just 24 calories but contributes about 9% of RDA (recommended daily allowance) of fiber.
Research studies conducted at the Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, Brazil, has suggested that chemical substances in the eggplant are effective in controlling high blood cholesterol levels.
The peel or skin (deep blue/purple varieties) of aubergine has significant amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called anthocyanins. Scientific studies have shown that these antioxidants have potential health effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.
Total antioxidant strength measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of aubergines is 993 µmol TE/100 g. At value 15; they are one of the low glycemic index (GI) vegetables.
It contains good amounts of many essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish and required for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.
Further, this vegetable is also an excellent source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron and potassium. The antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase utilizes manganese as a co-factor. Potassium is an important intracellular electrolyte that helps counter pressing (hypertension) effects of sodium.
Selection and storage
Eggplants are available fresh all around the season. In the markets, varieties of eggplants varying in size, shape, and color put for sale.
Eggplants are available fresh all around the season. In the markets, varieties of eggplants varying in size, shape, and color put for sale. Buy healthy looking, shiny, bright-colored fruits that feel heavy and firm. Take a close look at the stalk; if it is stout, firm, and green; that means the fruit is fresh.
Avoid those shriveled, soft in hand and with wrinkles, surface cuts or bruise. Always avoid over-mature, old-stock, and sunken eggplants as they taste bitter and, therefore, unappetizing.
At home, they can be kept in cool place for use in a day or two but ideally should be stored in the refrigerator set at high relative humidity, where they keep fresh for few days.
Preparation and serving methods
Wash eggplant thoroughly in cold water before use. Trim the stalk end using a sharp knife. Sprinkle a pinch of cooking salt or soak pieces in salt water to remove any bitter compounds. Whole fruit, including its skin and fine, tiny seeds are edible.
Whole, cubed, or sliced; aubergine can be used in a variety of recipes.
Here are some serving tips:
Spicy fried aubergine slices in general used as a favorite side dish in salads and appetizers.
Brinjals, as they have popularly known in South-Asian region, feature mainly in many kinds of Indian cuisines. It can be stew fried, roasted, baked or ground (baingan bartha, baingan chutney) in the preparation of a variety of recipes.
In Southern India, it is chopped into cubes and used in curry, chutney, and with rice (brinjal pulao-vaangi-bath).
In Southern Europe, Turkey, and Middle-East where aubergines are one of the common ingredients, they being employed in a variety of delicious recipes like moussaka (eggplant casserole), baba ghanoush (mashed eggplant preparation similar to South Asian baingan ki bartha), breadcrumbs, imam bayildi (stuffed-aubergine), etc.
Stewed Asparagus spears sandwiched with an aubergine slice is a popular recipe in Mediterranean region.
It is also widely used in pickling.
Eggplant (aubergine) contains a miniscule amount of nicotine than any other edible plant; at a concentration of 0.01mg/100g. However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant is negligible and harmless and therefore, shall not warrant against its usage. So, enjoy!