eggplant _ fresh from florida

The classic variety of eggplant boasts a pleasing purple color. The Sunshine State is one of the nation’s leading producers of this crop. / Florida Food & Farm file photo

The eggplant — so visually pleasant yet suffering from a bitter taste that many people dislike. (Fortunately, there are ways to reduce that bitterness; see “Cooking Tips” at end of story.) And since eggplants grow year-round in the Sunshine State, finding them is easy.

In fact, eggplants have had a reputation for bitterness for centuries. According to a 1,000-year-old joke, for instance, “A Bedouin in ninth-century Baghdad, when asked his opinion of eggplant, replied, ‘Its color is like unto a scorpion’s belly, and its flavor is as the scorpion’s sting'” (saveur.com).

Below are more fun facts about eggplants.

Five fun facts about eggplants

1) Eggplants aren’t vegetables; they’re berries. Also: Eggplants and tomatoes are related (indianapublicmedia.org).

2) In their 1993 report “The Nicotine Content of Common Vegetables,” three researchers found that eggplant contains, by far, the most nicotine of any vegetable they studied (www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199308053290619). (Editor’s note: The good news is that you’d have to eat a lot of eggplant — almost six-tenths of a pound, or 19.2 ounces — before you absorbed 1 microgram of nicotine. That’s the same amount “a passive smoker would absorb in about three hours in a room with a minimal amount of tobacco smoke,” the study says.)

A young eggplant on the vine. / Courtesy UF/IFAS

3) Why do we call eggplants by that name? Earlier varieties were white, and so resembled eggs when they were hanging from the plant.

4) In addition to the purple variety, eggplants are available in other colors, including lavender, jade green, orange and yellow-white; as well as in sizes and shapes that range from a small tomato to a large zucchini (whfoods.com).

5) Since they grow throughout the world, many varieties of eggplants exist. They include Classic, with a smooth, deep-purple skin and a large, oval shape; Sicilian, which is slightly smaller, with purple and white streaks; White, featuring a tough white skin; and Japanese/Chinese, which are longer and thinner, with a purple stem and skin.

Nutrition
(Source: USDA); 1 cup eggplant cubes (82 grams)
Calories: 20
Carbohydrates: 4.8 g
Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: .8 g
Total fat: 0.1 g

Cooking Tips
Want to reduce the bitter taste? First, slice up an eggplant and lightly salt the slices. Allow them to sit on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Then rinse off the salt, and pat the slices dry before cooking.