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Eight Fascinating Facts About Eggplant

Did you know eggplants contain nicotine? Here are some other fun facts you might not have known about eggplants.


Photo: SpecialKRB (flickr)

This week, the Earth Eats Podcast will be a listener request program all about eggplant.

So, to get you up to speed, we’ve compiled some of the most interesting, offbeat facts about eggplant that have caught our attention while we were doing the research for the episode.

Now, you may have known that eggplants are a great source of folic acid and potassium, and some studies say they help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

But, here are some other fun facts you might not have known about eggplants.

  1. Eggplants aren’t REALLY vegetables, they’re berries. Which isn’t that strange, considering other fruits are commonly mistaken for vegetables – like tomatoes.
  2. Eggplants and tomatoes are actually related. They both belong to the nightshade family with the famous literary poison – deadly nightshade. But don’t worry, eggplant isn’t toxic (at least not in normal amounts).
  3. A study published in 1993 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that eggplant has by far the highest level of nicotine of any vegetable. But it’s such a small amount that there’s really no need for concern. You would have to eat between 20 and 40 pounds of eggplant to consume the amount of nicotine you’d get smoking one cigarette.
  4. But eggplant had a bad rap before it’s comparison with cigarettes. Ancient Persian philosophers ascribed all kinds of ailments to them – from pimples to epilepsy.
  5. People in the U.K. called them aubergines. The word “aubergine” goes all the way back to the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. The eggplant is believed to have originated in India, where it is considered to be the King of Vegetables.
  6. The word “eggplant” that we use in North America comes from British-colonized India, where at the time, a small, white, egg-like variety of the vegetable was all the rage.
  7. In Renaissance Italy, it was called a mala insana or “crazy apple”.
  8. Japan even has a proverb about eggplant:
    “The happiest omen for a New Year is first Mount Fuji, then the falcon, and lastly eggplant.”

Your Eggplant Facts

Have any other interesting facts about eggplants or recipes to share? let us know in the comments!

Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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