Before they were an amusing emoji, eggplants (also known as aubergines) were a fantastic food highly thought of in countries such as India and in the Mediterranean. In fact, they are so amazing they even have their own day of celebration.
So to mark Eggplant Day, we’ve put together everything you need to know about eggplants and some tasty ideas on how to use them.
We use them as vegetables, but did you know that eggplants are technically fruits?
They grow from the flower of a plant and contain seeds and belong to the nightshade family just like tomatoes. They aren’t always purple either. There are white, green, red and black varieties, although the purple variety is what we are used to seeing.
So, now that you are clued up about how amazing these fruits are, let’s look into eggplants in more detail and explore ways you can incorporate them into your cooking!
Happy Eggplant Day, Celebrate The Eggplant Way!
Eggplants Have Several Health Benefits
As well as just being genuinely tasty, eggplants have several health benefits which make them a great addition to your diet.
Eggplants are a good source of soluble fibre, which helps you to feel full for longer. That makes them great if you want to lose weight and are trying to cut down on snacks between meals. This also helps with regular bowel movements and can assist with reducing levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
On top of all that, they are also rich in iron, Vitamins C and K, magnesium, potassium and manganese. These can help to support bone health, good skin and low iron levels.
Three Ways To Enjoy Your Eggplant
Now you know how great it is, you probably want to incorporate more of it into your diet. The great thing is, you can eat eggplant in all kinds of ways - bake it, roast it, grill it or add it to another dish.
Here are three Mediterranean classics to try:
Baba Ghanoush is an amazing dip! It’s totally on par with hummus for a go-to Mediterranean dish. In its most basic form, Baba Ghanoush has roasted and mashed eggplant, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt. All you need to do is mix everything together, and you’re done.
A traditional Greek dish, Moussaka is a bit like a lasagne made with eggplant. There are three main elements to moussaka - a thick meat sauce traditionally made with lamb, tomatoes and herbs and spices, a creamy bechamel sauce and, of course, eggplant - usually sliced and fried. These three elements are layered in a dish and then baked in the oven.
Easy to make, and a super filling lunch or dinner, stuffed eggplants are perfect by themselves or with an additional salad on the side.
To make them, all you have to do is cut the eggplant in half and then scoop out the flesh. Then bake the shells with a drizzle of olive oil until they are tender. In the meantime, you can make your filling with the eggplant flesh and anything else you want to add to it. Onion, capsicum and tomatoes are all good additions, and you can add spices like cumin, garlic or a Mediterranean staple Zataar to add flavour. Add the filling to the shells, and then add some feta cheese on top before grilling them until the cheese is melted and golden. Yum!
Want To Try Growing Your Own Eggplants?
If you are buying eggplants, look for ones with smooth, shiny skin with no bruises or soft spots. They should feel firm and be quite heavy.
But, if you have green fingers, you might like to try your hand at growing eggplants. It is possible in New Zealand, although they do need plenty of hot and sunny weather to grow well.
Eggplants are susceptible to frost so wait until the weather has warmed up. In colder areas, you should wait until at least November. Plant them in a sheltered, sunny spot in soil that is well cultivated with fertiliser.
It’s best to plant early in the morning or later in the day so the plants don’t get direct sunshine straight away. Water well before and after planting. Once your plants are growing, it can help to give them some vegetable fertiliser every few weeks. You may also need to stake the plants if they grow tall or if the fruit is causing them to bend.
Your eggplants are ready to harvest when the skin is shiny, and the fruit is well coloured. If you leave them until they turn dull, you risk getting a bitter eggplant.
Need Some Mediterranean Accompaniments?
There’s nothing quite as Mediterranean as a deliciously prepared eggplant. But, it does need a bit of help with seasoning and something else to go with it!
Don’t forget we have a great range of excellent ingredients in our shop and a selection of recipes to help you get started on your Mediterranean diet. Head over to the online store now, or check out our blog for some yummy recipes.