Eggplants are commonly and widely used in Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Especially Greek and Arab cuisines are famous for making most out of eggplant. Indian vegetarian meal is incomplete without eggplant dishes. It’s a very common part of Indian curries as well as snacks. Eggplant dishes are a part of everyday and occasional meals as per Italian cuisine. Various kind of baked and grilled eggplant recipes are famous in all these cuisines. In English-cuisine, eggplant recipes are not so common but it is adopting the recipes from other cuisines.
Preferred Methods for Cooking Eggplant Dishes
The meaty flesh of eggplant allows eggplant recipes to cook it in different ways. Here are some popular methods that are used to make eggplant dishes in different cuisines:
• Frying – Eggplants are coated with flour and deep-fried to make nice side dish or snack.
• Stir-fried – Cubed or sliced eggplant is stir-fried with other vegetables and forms a delectable dish.
• Baked – Eggplant is sliced and baked with ground meat and sauces.
• Grilled – Grilling gives a barbeque effect to the eggplant dishes.
• Pureed – Eggplant is boiled and pureed to make dips and sauces.
• Canned – Eggplant slices are packed with herbs,seasoning and oil.
• Stewed – Vegetables and lentils are added with eggplant to make a nice stew dish.
• Pickled – In Asian and Italian cuisines, eggplant pickle is a popular condiment or side dish.
• Stuffed – Due to its shape, eggplant is an ideal vegetable for stuffing.
Nutritive Value of Eggplants
Though eggplant is a very low calorie ingredient, eggplant dishes, which call for frying increase its calorific value steeply. It is a useful source of iron and effective in treating high cholesterol. According to African folk medicine, eggplant has long been used to treat epilepsy and convulsions. It is also used to treat stomach cancers and measles.
Consumption Criteria of Eggplant
Eggplant seems to be a nutritive food item but surprisingly it contains high level of nicotine similarly to a cigarette. Eggplant is also high in histamines that may cause skin and mouth allergies. Some people are allergic to eggplant, hence for them eggplant recipes are not suitable.
Buying and Storing Eggplants
Eggplant is a readily available vegetable throughout the year. During the months of August-October, the supply of eggplants is very high. Always firm and heavy eggplants should be purchased. Glossy, smooth and clean skin is the sign of fresh eggplant. Brown patches and soft spots make the eggplant unsuitable for buying. Eggplant should be stored in a cool dry place for not more than 2 days. If kept in refrigerator, it can be wrapped in a plastic sheet and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Cut eggplant or eggplant dishes should not be kept for more than 2 days in the refrigerator as there are chances for them to get rancid.
Types of Eggplants
Eggplants come in various shapes ranging from round to oblong. Some of the common varieties of eggplant are as follows:
• Baby eggplant – A long and thin variety of eggplant with smooth dark purple skin. It has soft flesh.
• Japanese eggplant – It has thin skin with purple color. However, this variety is available in pink, white and green colors also. Bitter seeds are also very less in Japanese eggplant.
• White eggplant – It is white in color with tough skin. Flesh inside is very smooth and has mild flavor.
• Turkey alone produces such a large number of eggplants as whole Europe cannot produce.
• Botanically, eggplant is believed to be a ‘berry’, though it is a fruit.