Eggplant

28 February 2015, 17:28

Eggplants (aubergines) are a member of a family of plants that include peppers, tomatoes and potatoes to name but a few; the nightshade family (Solanaceae group).

India is where they are believed to have  originated and their cultivation dates back at  least 1500 years in China and India.As the trade routes developed the silk road and  ocean passages, Arabs and Europeans brought eggplants (aubergines) to Europe and the Spanish introduced them to the Americas (the new world) around 200 years ago.

Aubergines grow in various shapes, sizes and colours from white to a rich shiny purple through green, lavender and rose coloured. They adopt their various colours when they are ripe which is in fact a little passed the optimum time to harvest. The colours tend to be as sweet as each other; in the past dyes have been extracted from eggplants.

The various darker colours are the result of water soluble flavonoid pigment giving the flowers and vegetable fruit their various colours, red, blue, purple and deep purple.

Eggplants grow to 1-2 metres and bare fruit around 20mm (2 inches) across; they thrive in warm full sunlight in soils of 6.5 to 5.5 pH levels; they don’t thrive in cooler climates and are frost sensitive.

Eggplants are a source of B group vitamins; niacin B-3, riboflavin, thiamine B-1 all of which are water soluble vitamins that incorporate into enzymes to support the digestion of fats, protein and carbohydrates converting them into energy and fatty acids.

Ratatouille

Ingredients

1 red onion
3 zucchini (courgettes)
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
3 tablespoons of oil
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 red capsicum
1 yellow capsicum
1 x 400g can chickpeas (drained)
2 x  400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
1-2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
Chopped parsley (for garnish)

Method

1. Cut vegetables into 2cm chunks

2. Sauté red onion, zucchini, eggplant and oil in a large saucepan, stirring frequently, until eggplant is soft.

3. Add garlic and capsicum and cook for a further 2 minutes.

4. Add remaining ingredients, bring to the boil and serve.

5. Garnish with parsley and serve with French bread.