Eggplant or Aubergines

Eggplant or Aubergines

Many varieties of eggplants are cultivated and cooked all over the world. In Europe, Asia or America, they feature in a multitude of different dishes. Although eggplants are a member of the nightshade family and thus related to potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, they were not discovered in the New World.

The first mention of their cultivation is in China in 5 BC, and they are thought to have been eaten in India long before that. The Moors introduced the eggplants to Spain some 1,200 years ago and it was grown in Andalucia. It is likely that they also introduced it to Italy, and possibly from there to other southern and eastern parts of Europe.

In spite of their popularity in Europe, eggplants did not become popular in Britain or the United States until very recently; although previous generations of food writers knew about them, they gave only the occasional recipe for cooking with them. Meanwhile, in the southern and eastern parts of Europe, eggplants had become extremely well liked, and today they are one of the most popular vegetables in the Mediterranean. Indeed, Italy, Greece and Turkey claim to have 100 ways of cooking them. In the Middle East, eggplants are also a central part of their cuisine.

Varieties : There are many different varieties of eggplants, differing in color, size and shape according to their country of origin. Small ivory-white and plump eggplants look like large eggs (hence their name in the States: Eggplant). Pretty striped eggplants may be either purple or pink and flecked with white irregular stripes. The Japanese or Asian eggplant is straight and very narrow, ranging in color from a pretty variegated purple and white to a solid purple. It has a tender, slightly sweet flesh. Most eggplants, however, are either glossy purple or almost black and can be long and slim or fat like zeppelins. All eggplants have a similar flavor and texture; they taste bland yet slightly smoky when cooked, and the flesh is spongy to touch when raw, but soft after cooking.

Buying and Storing : Eggplants should feel heavy and firm to the touch, with glossy, unblemished skins. They will keep well in the salad drawer of the fridge for up to two weeks.

Preparing : When frying eggplants for any dish where they need slicing, it is a good idea to salt the slices first in order to draw out some of their moisture, otherwise, they absorb enormous quantities of oil during cooking.

More Vegetables Guide

Visitors Currently Online: 15