I recently polled a dozen patients in my office, and I was shocked that more than half the adults I asked were unable to select eggplant out of a vegetable line-up. The most common mistake was selecting an acorn squash over eggplant. The follow-up question, “have you ever cooked eggplant” resulted in a “no” in all of the respondents. What a sad day for me and eggplant lovers.
Long prized for its deeply purple, glossy beauty as well as its unique taste and texture, eggplants are now available in markets throughout the year, but they are at their very best from August through October when they are in season.
Eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. They grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height. While the different varieties do range slightly in taste and texture, one can generally describe the eggplant as having a pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture. With a little practice, cooking eggplant can be very enjoyable.
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 animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids 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. From a nutritional standpoint, eggplant is rich in dietary fiber, manganese, and molybdenum.
Be adventurous and buy an eggplant, and experiment with a recipe or two. Below are posted some recipes to consider.