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The Origins of Eggplant and Nutritional Value

Updated on March 19, 2018
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Italian Culinary Arts * Culture & History * Eclectic Recipes * Odds & Ends and How-Tos *

Aubergine Nightshade

Display of Eggplant
Display of Eggplant | Source

The History of Eggplant

Historical record of the eggplant can be traced back to the year 544 AD in China where an agricultural study took place on the plant species and was documented. However, the first known cultivation of eggplant took place in India nearly 4,000 years ago. The nightshade vegetable was used as a main staple in the region and eventually migrated to other regions of Asia and the Middle East. Over time, the cultivation of eggplant spread to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe where the vegetable referred to as a fruit species gained an unusual reputation and considered an aphrodisiac.

Chinese Bloom

Eggplant, also know as the aubergine, is a member of the plant family Solanaceae, shown here flowering in full bloom
Eggplant, also know as the aubergine, is a member of the plant family Solanaceae, shown here flowering in full bloom | Source

The Aubergine in Europe

After the migration of the eggplant settled in Southern and Northern Europe, the vegetable took on a darker recognition. People in the middle-ages lived in a superstitious culture due to the ideals of religious zealots and the spread of witchcraft and deadly plague, society took on a wary approach to anything mysterious or new to culture. Some considered the eggplant as a produce that had the ability to cause insanity, leading to the eggplant taking on an ill-famed notoriety and known as the "Mad Apple" because of its relation to the poisonous Nightshade family of vegetables. With the rise of the Renaissance Era, European fears lessened and the appeal for the eggplant grew, especially in Germany and Italy where the vegetable flourished and came to be known throughout Europe as the "Aubergine"

Renoir Still Life

Still Life with Fruit
Still Life with Fruit | Source

Thomas Jefferson's Garden

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, delved into gardening? At every opportunity, he would find a way to introduce new plant varieties to his extensive collection by importing seeds from Europe. It just so happened that eggplant was considered exotic and one of the many food plants which he experimented on at his famous garden estate, Monticello.

Portrait of Jefferson

John Trumbull ~ Thomas Jefferson Portrait, c. 1788
John Trumbull ~ Thomas Jefferson Portrait, c. 1788 | Source

Jefferson and his Garden Experiment

Health Benefits and Other Various Uses

There are many various ways to prepare this nightshade vegetable, but the best way to prepare eggplant is very simple. Slice a few pieces, toss them onto a sandwich grill, drudge a little olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper, and grill for a few minutes. What you end up with is heaven! You can use as an antipasti with salad, top over a helping of rice, or better yet, pop those yummy slices right into your mouth.

There are many reasons why I would suggest putting eggplant into your diet.

  1. First and foremost, it's good for you. How? For starters, eggplant contains phytonutrients, key components in protecting the cells within the body which help to fight off diseases such as the number one killer cancer. Not only does phytonutrients help fight disease, but they also strengthen the outer-lying fatty wall of the cell membrane of the brain.
  2. Secondly, eggplant is high in dietary fiber. If you suffer from chronic constipation, consuming eggplant in your diet is a good way to help prevent irregular bowel movements, and also a good source to flush the bowel and keep it clean from toxins.
  3. Lastly, eggplant is known to help curb one's appetite and plays a role in weight loss since 92 percent of the vegetables weight is based on water, and naturally an appetite suppressor.

Some people find that they are sensitive to the vegetable's mildly bitter taste while others aren't particularly fond of the idea that eggplant actually contains trace amounts of nicotine in its nutrient base. If you can overcome these obstacles, then I think eggplant just might be the vegetable for you!

Preparation
Serving Size
Fat (g)
Energy (k)
Raw Eggplant
100g
0.5
75
Grilled Eggplant
90 g (3 slices)
0
75
Fried Eggplant
100 g
2.5
1000

Nutrional Information and Uses

The Basics

The Most Famous Eggplant Recipe

Favorite Nightshade Vegetable

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