By Hwaa Irfan
Aubergines have often referred to the poor man’s meat, being rich in nutrients, and easy to prepare in many versatile ways. However, this fruit we use as a vegetable has become a popular ingredient in the cuisines, of many European countries, and still remains so in Asia, and the Middle East. Commonly enjoyed it goes by many names, from Aubergine (French), Eggplant (English), Qie zi (China), Brinjal (India), Bedhingan (North Africa) for example. The first written record is from China and dates 59BC. The 14th century European records was translated from the 11th century Taqwim al-Sihha bi al-Ashab al-Sitta, and again in the “Calendar of Cordoba” written in 961 in Islamic Spain. It was introduced to the U.S., in 1806, by Thomas Jefferson as a botanist.
Solanum melongena is a member of the nightshade family of the plant kingdom, the Solanaceae, and is native to India and E. Africa. Requiring lots of water, and warmth, the plant grows as tender, but herbaceous climbing shrub with a preference for wild environs in countries like Africa (tropical), Europe, and N. America.
They produce delicate small lavender/blue/white coloured flowers that are wheel-shaped. The flowers hang like a pendant from the axils of the leaves, and have 5 petals, which in turn have 5 stamens – a common feature of the Solanaceae family. The distinguishing feature of the flowers, is that only the lower flowers are hermaphrodite, and thus are the only flowers of the plant that is fruit producing. The flowers higher up are male providing pollen with the bees fulfilling the act of pollination – a habit which is common in the wild varieties. This predisposes the plant to producing larger aubergines.
Commercial Solanum melongena tend to stand erect, with large fuzzy leaves, and hard stems. It is mostly produced by Asia, China, Egypt, Italy, Japan, and Turkey. Aubergines are grown all year round, being a perennial grown as an annual, but their best season is August – November.
Chemical Properties include:
- ß-sitosterol-ß-D-glucoside 3
- Dioscin 4
- Ferullic acid
- Gallic acid
- Phenols: caffeic,
- Chlorogenic acid
- Protodioscin 5
- Stigmasterol 1
- Stigmasterol-ß-D-glucoside 2
- Methly protodioscin 6
Solanum melongata is rich in phenols: caffeic, p-coumaric, ferulic, gallic, protocatechuic and, p-hydroxybenzoic with the Black Beauty variety containing the highest amount of phenols. For example,
protocatechuic acid is found in natural foods that exhibit anti-oxidant and anti-tumour properties.
Nasunin is a flavanoid in the skin of the fruit, which acts as a powerful antioxidant that has demonstrated the ability to protect cellular damage. Phenols are also antioxidants, which prevents bacterial and fungal infection of the plant, which transfers as a support mechanism to human health. Nasunin chelates iron, reducing the problems that can occur from excess iron in the blood which can lead to increased cellular damage, increased risk of arthritic conditions, heart disease, and cancer.
Chlorogenic acid which is a phenol and a strong antioxidant also contains anti-cancerous, anti-microbial, and antiviral properties, and has the ability to lower bad cholesterol as opposed to good, and much needed cholesterol.
Studies have been exploring solasodine as a possible oral contraceptive.
- Omega-3-fatty acids
- Omega-6-fatty acids
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B₆
- Vitamin B₁₂
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
With the introduction of GM aubergines on the Indian subcontinent, several questions have been raised to the effect on non-GM aubergines, and its application in traditional Indian medicine, and other forms of alternative therapies. Practitioner of traditional Indian medicine, Dr. Shivaraman raises the problem as the alkaloids present in Monsanto’s Bt-brinjal/aubergines are different to normal brinjal/aubergines.
Aubergines are a vegetable that is contraindicated for those who latex and histamine intolerance. For latex intolerance, consumption of aubergines has been known to cause anaphylaxis.
When shopping for aubergines, look for varieties that are smooth in skin colour and texture. Bruising is usually a good indication of damage on the inside. One can test the aubergine by squeezing it then suddenly letting go. If there is no deterioration/decay on the inside, the vegetable will return to its shape spontaneously.
At home, the vegetable should be stored in the middle of the refrigerator – not too cold, and not vulnerable to fluctuating temperatures. Once the vegetable cuts it should be cooked, and it should be cut with a stainless steel knife, otherwise there will be a reaction with the phytonutrients, upon which the vegetable will begin to darken.
To cook, bear in mind that the bitterness in the vegetable is due to the presence of glycol-alkaloids which is common to the Solanaceae family. In Indian traditional cuisine, the antidotes to the bitterness, which contains toxins are ghee, mustard, ginger, tamarind, garam masala, jeera, ajwain, curds and oil. An Indian recipe will contain one or more of these ingredients, which also make the vegetable more palatable. However, in saying this, the commercial crops of today are less bitter than the crops of the past. Another common method used in the Middle East is to salt the sliced aubergines and leave for a while before cooking as this leeches the bitter juice. The great thing about aubergines is that they take on the flavour of whatever is added to it, and the bad news is that it absorbs oil, so the cooking process should bear this in mind. However, more good news, the vegetable is extremely versatile and can be stuffed, steamed, boiled, chopped, baked, roasted, fried or stewed in a short time.
– 1-2 eggplants
– 3 tbsp. (45 ml) lemon juice
– 1 tsp. (5 ml) sea salt
– 2 tsp. (10 ml) minced garlic
– 3 tbsp. (45 ml) sesame paste (tahini)
– ¼ cup (50 ml) chopped parsley
– 2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil (optional)
Bake the pierced eggplant until soft. Scoop out the flesh. You need about 2 – 2 ¼ cups. Combine with the lemon juice in a mixer or food processor and beat until smooth. Mash the salt and garlic together, mix with the tahini, and combine with the eggplant. Cool, stir in the parsley, and served drizzled with olive oil.
Serve as a dip, a thick sauce, or as a spread.
In Thai herbal medicine a decoction of the roots is used to treat asthma and as a stimulant. The leaves are used to heal piles, and a decoction of the roots, dried stalk and leaves have been used to wash sores. In Taiwanese traditional medicine, the roots have been used to treat rheumatism, and inflammations.
In the traditional medicine of Suriname the roots are used to treat internal haemorrhage, and asthma.
In balance He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!
Kowalski, K, and Kowalska, G. “Phenolic Acid Contents in Fruits of Aubergine (Solanum Melongena L.).” Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition. Pol. J. Food Nutr. Sci. 2005, Vol. 14/55, No 1, pp. 37–42.
Steinman, H. “Aubergines.” email@example.com
Rao, C.K. “Use of Brinjal in Alternative and Complementary Systems of Medicine in India Is a Factoid.”
Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education Bangalore
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