Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family. Although “nightshade” may sound foreboding, this name is likely given to this group of plants as they many of them do well growing in the shade. The eggplant is native to the Indian Subcontinent and was likely introduced by Arabs to the Mediterranean in the middle ages. It was then introduced to other areas of Europe and became known for remarkable properties as a love potion.
Thomas Jefferson likely brought eggplant to the United States and experimented with many varieties in his garden. In the U.S., we are accustomed to a purple, oval shaped variety of this vegetable. However, there are an abundance of varieties of eggplant in India and Asia.
There are numerous health benefits to nightshade plants. Eggplant is packed full of vitamin K and phytonutrients, which contributes to bone and brain health and is a powerful anti-oxidant. The phytonutrients are in the skin of the eggplant, so there is no need to peel your eggplant!
Eggplants are extremely versatile and feature strongly in Mediterranean diets. They are grown extensively in Mediterranean countries and Turkey grows more eggplant than all of Europe.
Eggplant Parmesan is lovely, and there are many other great ways to highlight the complex and deep flavor of the eggplant. They are delicious and bake beautifully in the oven, whether stuffed or simply roasted and added to Israeli Couscous.
Here is an Italian style recipe for Marinated Eggplant With Mint & Capers that has a beautiful presentation and pairs very well with chunks of rustic bread. The recipe is inspired by a recipe in The Silver Spoon, a traditional Italian cookbook.
Photo Credit: Christine Dutton