Eggplant: A Fruit, More than a Hue

To get things started, the eggplant would like one thing to be clear – it is actually a fruit. However, similar to its fellow nightshade family member, the tomato, it’s often treated in meals as a vegetable (how often do you cover an apple in breadcrumbs, marinara and parmesan?).

AubergineThis elongated pear-shaped fruit-vegetable doesn’t land in my grocery basket very often; I cooked with it for the first time in a college Food Lab, perplexed by its firm outer layer, yet squishy, mealy inside.

What is this large purple tube?

Grouped with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and even tobacco, the nightshade plants are grown in the shade of the night. They produce alkaloids – one of which is nicotine – and have therefore been studied as pharmaceuticals. They’re actually a defense mechanism for plants; by design, they protect plants from insects that would normally eat them. In some human cases, these compounds can cause adverse reactions, but cooking has been shown to reduce the amount of alkaloid.

Toxic worries aside, this plant has plenty of beneficial, healthy attributes. Yes, it has plenty of nice qualities, too…

  • It is made up of almost 95% water. You can’t drink it, though.
  • One cup of cubed/chopped eggplant has only ~20 calories, 3g of fiber, and 10% of the Daily Value (DV) for manganese.
  • It is rich in phytochemicals, some of which are being studied in relation to cardiovascular health – nasunin is an antioxidant phytochemical found in eggplant skin, and is believed to protect fats (lipids) in brain cells. 
  • The best season for eggplant growing runs from July – October. Perfect for Farmers’ Market grabbing!

In the world of foodies, it is a versatile “fruit” for cooking and meal-creating. One of its more popular roles is that of a chicken substitute for “Eggplant Parmesan”. It’s the base of ratatouille, and Betty says it can be boiled (5-8 minutes, until softened), steamed or sautéed (5-10 minutes, with oil or you know, Bett’s favorite, butter).

One of the most popular dishes searched on this site is the “Pasta-less Eggplant Lasagna”. Recently, I threw it into a lasagna that also had the regular noodle, cheese, vegetables layers.

Eggplant Pasta-less Lasagna
Lasagna layers before spinach

*****

The eggplant and I are still getting to know each other. I’m a sucker for the deep purple hue, and the creative push it gives me when I have it sitting on my counter, staring at me. I’m also a sucker for this Trader Joe’s red pepper eggplant dip, which has be convinced that the flavor isn’t always masked by the odd texture.

TJ Eggplant Red Pepper dip

Are you an eggplant fan, or connoisseur? Do you have an eggplant favorite to add to the recipe list?

Sources:
What are nightshades and in which foods are they found?
16 Facts About Eggplant
Eggplant Nutrition Facts

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18 Comments

Filed under food, groceries, learning, Nutrition, recipes

18 responses to “Eggplant: A Fruit, More than a Hue

  1. erin

    really a fruit! I’d never know that! but eggplant is definitely a staple in my fridge. I actually prefer asian eggplants, I think those are a little bit more flavorful, though it doesn’t have much flavor, and not as mealy. But nonetheless, I love using eggplant cuz it really does beef up my meals.

  2. Personally, I love eggplant, but I’m the only one in our household so we don’t really buy it. That said, I used to eat eggplant, tomato, and cheese stuffed in a pita and microwaved for less than a minute as a very tasty lunch. Also, eggplant, zucchini, and mushroom stir fry is fantastic – especially with a little old bay seasoning.

  3. I’m so on and off with eggplant – depending on the variety and the texture, I love it one day and can’t stand it the next.

  4. Christina

    I love eggplant it is one of the best things to eat. I like it best simply in a mixed vegetable ragout with some toasted bread, it is just perfect. Great post, stop by and say hi 🙂
    http://saltpepperbrilliant.wordpress.com/

  5. Ah, this gives me some quality eggplantspiration to whip up something yummy with my giant purple tube tonight…. Maybe a mini eggplant lasagna!

  6. Emily

    Eggplant is actually one of my favorite foods ever (but I didn’t know it was a fruit, so thanks for that!). I use it on pizza, as a substitute for lasagna noodles, in a delicious roasted red pepper/red onion dip that I eat by the spoonful, or just roasted as a side dish. Which reminds me, I have some in my fridge that I need to use tonight 🙂

  7. Had no clue it is a fruit, for one thing!

    I am not a big fan of the texture, but I also haven’t really given it a fair shot. I think I can learn to like it, kind of like I did with mushrooms. I mean. who WOULDN’T want to eat a plate full o’ purple?!

    Thanks for the info/ideas!

  8. crap, it’s a fruit? I keep trying to eat more veggies and discovering that they are all fruits! rude!

    • Heather C

      They all count towards the same thing, though! “5 servings of fruits OR veggies each day” – See, the experts are still on your side. Don’t worry. 😉

  9. i think i need to try your pasta-less dish! james doesn’t like eggplant unless its cooked certain way, so this just might work.

  10. wow never knew it was a fruit, I do like egg plant although havent cooked much with it, would quite like to try a stuffed recipe with some cous cous and goats cheese.

  11. Emily

    I LOVE eggplant! But I’ve always said it is one of my favorite VEGGIES!! I stand corrected!

  12. I love eggplant brushed with a herbs marinade and on the grill. Their season is right on time for those summer bbqs 😉

  13. I’ve never cooked with eggplant, but I actually like it! Billy made baba ghanoush once, but that’s the only time I’ve ever purchased one. the lasagna looks great!

  14. I am sometimes a fan of eggplant. Depends how it is cooked I guess! I recently tried out this recipe from the Swanky Dietitian’s blog and LOVED it, so I would recommend this eggplant recipe for you ro try out: http://swankydietitian.com/2012/01/13/leaving-out-the-onion/

  15. Oh how I love EGGPLANT! I hardly eat it anymore though 😦 I had one bad experience but it wasn’t actually the EGGPLANT that caused the problem… but it just scared me! I gotta get back into it! It’s too good!

    http://www.gigiea­tscelebrit­ies.com

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