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Name:

Aubergine

Fact Sheet: Fact Sheet

Variety:

 

Family

Aubergine (Solanum melongena) is botanically not a vegetable but a berry.

Availability:

May - October

Character:

Although often associated with warmer, more exotic lands, the striking looking aubergine is widely cultivated in Britain. Its subtle and distinctive combination of textures and flavours - smooth, fleshy, creamy, smokey - make it a versatile and beguiling component of many great dishes.

As a fruit, aubergines contain many fine seeds. It has a mild taste and is typically cooked with stronger flavours such as garlic, tomatoes, onions, herbs and spices.

Use:

They go well with lamb and chicken and can be cut into chunks and barbecued on kebabs.

Quality Points:

Choose aubergines that feel heavy with smooth, taut, unblemished skin and fresh-looking unwithered green stalks.

Storage:

Aubergines are easily damaged; handle with care. They keep in the fridge for a few days.

Preparation:

In the past it was normal to salt aubergines to remove bitterness and moisture. Modern aubergines are rarely too bitter, but salting can help reduce the amount of oil aubergines absorb during cooking. Cut the aubergine into thick slices, salt well and stand in a colander for around half an hour to allow the juices to drain away. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a kitchen towel.

Cooking Method:

They can be fried (with a good batter to reduce the amount of oil absorbed), baked, grilled or steamed - whole, sliced or cubed.

History:

The aubergine is thought to be of Indian origin and records show that it was being cultivated in China in the fifth century. From around the fifteenth century it became increasingly popular in Mediterranean Europe and has long been established in classic dishes such as moussaka (from Greece), Turkey in imam bayildi and ratatouille (southern France). Influential cookery writer Elizabeth David played a significant role in bringing the aubergine to the attention of the British in the mid-twentieth century.

Nutrition:

Whilst aubergine is not rich in core nutrients, it can contain unusual pigments and has high levels of other phytochemicals, particularly phenolic compounds like nasunin, which are thought to confer much of its high levels of antioxidant activity

Comment:

 Aubergines are a key ingredient in Imam Bayildi, a dish popular throughout the Arab world. According to legend the dish's name, which translates as 'the imam fainted', arose after an imam passed out due to the deliciousness of the dish