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botanical name: Solanum melongena

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Origins and history

Inevitable component of the Mediterranean diet and dishes associated with the summer season is the eggplant, the fruit of a plant belonging to the Solanaceae family (such as tomatoes, potatoes and peppers), whose Latin name Solanum melongena. This name was assigned at a later date as the origins of this plant by the tasty and versatile fruits coming from India and China and was introduced to Europe by the Arabs. Initially they were assigned different names than the current one, then reaching the final classification which means literally "not healthy apple" (as in fact the fruit of this plant is not edible raw).

It's also found that in the Middle Ages the consumption of this vegetable was practically nonexistent as there was tied a kind of superstition that eating eggplant caused insanity.

Current production is worldwide, although this vegetable requires special terrain, large amounts of fertilizer and warm climates. The largest producer, also in agreement with the origins of the plant, is China, but also the Mediterranean thanks to its climate more conducive that is well suited for cultivation. There are many varieties of eggplant, so that you can consider the result which counts most of varieties grown and marketed.

Nutritional properties and benefits

From a nutritional point of view, it's important to remember that this vegetable contains solanine, a substance that becomes toxic in excessive amounts and is present in raw fruit, that's potentially risky.  Solanine is softened by cooking, making absolutely safe consumption. The presence of very few calories makes this product particularly suitable for low-calorie diets; the important thing is the type of cooking, since the spongy texture of this delicious fruit purplish port to absorb any kind of seasoning (for example oil).

It also contains a large amount of fiber that helps the intestine in its correct operation and adjust; It also contains a lot of water, which promotes diuresis and proper liver function - seems favorable for the production of bile. There are also uses in traditional medicine, even having regard to its origins; it seems that the product has anti-inflammatory properties, which are also found in the leaves of the plant itself, which apparently are used to precisely treat inflammations and abscesses.

The nutritional values see the presence mostly of water, a few grams of carbohydrates, and fibers. At the level of mineral salts are present mostly potassium, phosphorus, sodium and calcium. They are also a source of vitamins A, B and C.

The use of Eggplant in cooking

As previously mentioned, there are different types of eggplant: long, globular, purple. In any case, to ensure that the fruit we are going to buy is fresh, check the consistency of the same. The skin should be tight and free of dents, and the stem must be dry and still attached to the berry. It can be kept in the fridge but no more than 4 or 5 days, otherwise it tends to blacken within and to become even more bitter than it is normally.

It's precisely the bitter taste the main feature of the fruit; to eliminate the problem before cooking and consumption, it is advisable to cut the eggplant into thick slices, cover with coarse salt, and let the excess water comes out taking away the bitter saying that it would then not too pleasant tasting.

Once this is done, there are many jobs that they can do; especially is the Sicilian cuisine which makes wide use, crowning the Pasta alla Norma as queen of first courses (it's a dish consisting of pasta maybe of wheat, seasoned with tomato sauce, basil, fried eggplant cubes and sprinkle with the ricotta salata). However, perhaps the most popular among the typical Italian recipes containing this delicious product is the parmigiana, which celebrates the perfect marriage with the fragrant and delicious tomato mozzarella mozzarella.

There is also a legend that decreed the birth of this historic and amazing dish; it tells of a woman to the Vucciria market in Palermo, lose sight of your child, only to find him playing near the bench of an Arab man. Playing, the baby had dropped some "petrociane" (one of the ancient names of the eggplant) and she had been forced to buy them despite not knowing what to do. After returning home, "tormented" by starving son, she was inspired by the light that filtered through the slats of the shutters to the windows, which in fact are called Palermo parmiciane. Alternating as vegetables, tomato sauce and cheese, it seems that she has invented one of the cornerstones of Italian cuisine renowned worldwide.