The eggplant is an old, versatile food that has been used, throughout its history, in both cooking and medicine. It has long been considered a vegetable because of its savory and often bitter taste and the wide variety of ways it can be cooked. But eggplants are grown in the same way as fruits. So what’s the truth? Is the eggplant actually a vegetable, or is it a fruit?
Is The Eggplant a Fruit or Vegetable?
Technically speaking, the eggplant is both a vegetable and a fruit! But how exactly is that possible? Let’s find out!
Scientifically, the eggplant is a fruit, specifically a berry, because of the way that it grows. Fruits, including eggplants, come from the flower of a plant and have seeds that are edible. In contrast, vegetables are any other part of the plant, such as the leaves, the roots, or the stems. Berries are particularly classified as being a fleshy fruit without a pit in the middle. Technically speaking, the eggplant fits both the fruit and berry molds.
However, when it comes to cooking, the eggplant is considered a vegetable. It tastes savory and often bitter, the way we usually expect vegetables to taste. Eggplants can be grilled, baked, roasted, boiled, fried, and even mashed like most other vegetables.
Where Does the Eggplant Come From?
The eggplant, which can go by different names depending on which region you live in, is thought to have originated in two different countries: China and India, all thousands of years ago. It was introduced to Europe as early as the thirteenth century. It eventually found immense popularity, though that didn’t come immediately.
Early on, many in medieval Europe believed that the eggplant was poisonous. The eggplant, like its cousin the tomato (which is another fruit often thought of to be a vegetable!), is part of the Nightshade family. Plants in the Nightshade family have poisonous stalks and leaves, though the fruit is wholly healthy and edible. Even so, medieval Europeans did not know this, and strayed clear of the eggplant for several decades, if not hundreds of years! Though by the sixteenth century, the eggplant – called by its French name aubergine in most areas in Europe – was very popular, and was used in a variety of dishes.
Eggplants were brought to the United States around the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first ones that were brought over looked like eggs in color, shape, and size, and were thus dubbed eggplants.
Nowadays, the most eggplants produced can be found in China, India, and Egypt. In the United States, the state that grows the most eggplants, harvesting about 850 acres a year, is New Jersey.
What are the Different Types of Eggplants?
The eggplant family is sprawling, and welcomes eggplants of all shapes, sizes, and colors, which means that there are countless different eggplant varieties in the world. Many of them are grown in varying regions and environments. Let’s take a look at some of these down below!
- Thai Eggplant, which are small, round, and often green in color on the outside with a pinkish hue to the flesh on the inside. They can resemble small watermelon.
- Japanese Eggplant, which are long, thin, and purple colored. These eggplants are known for cooking quickly and are thus a great addition to any stir fry dish!
- Globe Eggplant, which are the most popular variety in the United States. These eggplants are hefty, meaty, and also purple in color.
- White Eggplant, which look and taste exactly like the Globe eggplant except that they are, you guessed it, white in color.
- Chinese Eggplant, which are very similar in size, shape, and color to the Japanese eggplant except they have less seeds, which means a sweeter taste!
- Fairy Tale Eggplant, which are small and have white stripes among their purple color. These sweet-tasting eggplants are quick and easy to grill.
- Indian Eggplant, which are also often referred to as the baby eggplant, are small with a deep reddish-purple color that brings to mind grapes.
- Italian Eggplant, which are very similar to the Globe eggplant, though these are often smaller and sweeter than their counterpart.
What Are the Health Benefits of Eggplants?
There are many health benefits of eggplants, from traditional medicine to being rich in nutrients, and eggplants have also been known to reduce your risk of heart disease and even cancer!
In China and India, eggplants have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. It is believed that eating the fruit regularly can do tons of good things to and for the body, from relieving heat rash to regulating and promoting good digestive health!
Eggplants contain vitamins A and C, among others, which are antioxidants. An antioxidant helps your cells and delays or even prevents damage to them. These fruits are also high in fiber but low in calories and contains many nutrients, including managanese, protein, folate, potassium, and so many others!
There are some studies that suggest that regularly eating eggplants can reduce your risk of heart disease! In addition, a diet that often includes eggplants may also have benefits for your blood sugar and can keep it under control. And if that wasn’t amazing enough already, eggplants also have many substances that have been known to fight cancer cells.