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Eggplant has not always been a popular vegetable in the United States, but it is a favorite in many areas of the South. Thomas Jefferson, who experimented with many varieties of plants in his Virginia garden, is credited with introducing egg plant to North America.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is native to India. Eggplant is related to potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. They are available all year. Their peak growing season in Kentucky is from June to October. Look for an eggplant with smooth, uniformly colored skin. Tan patches, scars, or bruises indicate decay. Also avoid eggplants with wrinkled or blemished skin.
When you press gently on an eggplant, the finger mark will disappear quickly if the eggplant is fresh. Eggplant should feel heavy; one that feels light for its size may not have a good flavor. The stem and cap should be bright green.
Like most vegetables, eggplant is naturally low in calories and has no fat. It is a fair source of potassium, iron, and protein. A ½ cup of plain eggplant has only 15 calories. Eggplant is a very good source of fiber. It is popular in Asian and Middle Eastern cookery, as well as in many Mediterranean dishes. It is often combined with tomatoes and onions for a tasty, healthy side dish.
For a great summer eggplant dish, try this tasty recipe.
Easy Cheesy Eggplant
3 cups cubed eggplant, 2 medium tomatoes, sliced, 1 large onion, sliced, ¼ cup butter melted, ¼ cup applesauce ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp dried basil, ¼ tsp garlic powder, 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs, 2 tbls Grated Parmesan cheese.
Directions: Peel eggplant and slice into ½ inch cubes. Layer eggplant, tomatoes and onions in a casserole dish. Mix butter and applesauce and pour ½ over the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with the salt, basil and garlic powder. Cover and bake for 20 minutes in a 450° F over. Remove from oven and top with mozzarella cheese, whole wheat bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Pour remaining butter and applesauce mixture over the cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes, uncovered. Yield 12, ½ cup servings. Nutritional Analysis: 120 calories, 7 g fat, 170 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 6 g protein.
For more information on using “Kentucky Proud” fruits and vegetables, contact the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Office at (502) 255-7188.
Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.