It’s eggplant season! Part of the “nightshades” family, these bright beauties are related to other summer favorites like tomatoes, bell peppers and potatoes. Eggplant was first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C., later introduced to Africa before the Middle Ages, and into Italy in the 14th century. It then spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and, centuries later, was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for eggplant, though – early varieties’ bitterness gave it the undeserved reputation of causing insanity, leprosy and cancer. So, for centuries after its introduction to Europe, eggplant was purely used as garden decoration. It wasn’t until new, less bitter varieties came along in the 18th century that eggplant took its rightful place as just as good to eat as it was to look at.
We now know that eggplant is just plain good for us, too. It’s a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, thiamin, folate, magnesium, niacin, and vitamins B1 and B6; plus, it contains phytonutrients such as nasunin, otherwise known as “brain food.” Study up with this recent AJC article on eggplant, featuring Heirloom Gardens’ Paula Guilbeau, and look for fresh eggplant starting this month at the Market!
Photo by Flickr user jayluker
- Jennifer Maley