Edible Eggplant

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Contributed by Jennifer Peachey

We usually recognize eggplant by its deep purple colour and pear-like shape. It does, however, vary in size and colour; they can be as small as an egg and white. Today we enjoy this fruit (it's a berry) because it is edible, but in the 5th century it was used for makeup. Ladies of fashion would make a black dye from the plant and stain their teeth. When polished, they gleamed like metal.

The Chinese have eaten eggplant to aid the funciton of the large intestine, spleen, and stomach. It is said to prevent atherosclerosis, enhance immunity, and prevent convulsions. Eggplant is high in vitamins B1, 2, and 3, vitamin C, and contains some iron, calcium, and potassium. Many sources warn against eating eggplant and other nightshade vegetables (bell, chili, cayenne and hot peppers, potatoes, tomatoes) when suffering from arthritis. Check with your natural health practitioner if concerned.

Eggplant is an essential ingredient in Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. Many people have heard of, or even tried, the eggplant dishes Ratatouille and Moussaka. You can also try eggplant stuffed, roasted, boiled, barbequed, or pureed. Eggplant does soak up much oil when fried, so baking may be preferred. Cubed eggplant can be baked at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes and 3/4 inch slices for 30 minutes. If pan-frying, coating the cubed eggplant with flour, beaten egg, and bread crumbs can cut down on the oil absorption.

Eggplant should be handled with care because it bruises easily. Stored in a perforated plastic bag, in the refrigerator, it will keep for a week. Once cut, the flesh will discolour quickly, so cook immediately or sprinkle with lemon juice. Once cooked, eggplant will be soft. It is often this texture, not the flavour, that gives eggplant an unpopular reputation. Personally, I avoided it until someone introduced it to me, barbequed, on a pizza. What a surprise! It was not only edible but delicious too!





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