Friday, April 11, 2008
Aubergine - Uncharted powers?
The glossy purple aubergine (called baingun in India) is a family component of Indian curries, Greek moussakas and French ratatouille. The raw vegetable contains 15 Calories per 100g (3.5oz), but its calorific value rises steeply when it is fried: the same portion cooked in oil contains more than 300 Calories because of the extraordinary amounts of fat absorbed.
The aubergine is native to India, but was also a common food in China as long ago as 600 BC, when it was called the Malayan purple melon. Chinese ladies of the time used it as a beauty aid, staining their teeth black with a dye made from its skin. The first varieties that English-speakers came across probably bore egg-shaped fruits - hence its other name of eggplant.
The aubergine was both prized and feared when it was introduced to Spain by Arab traders during the Middle Ages. For centuries it was valued only as an exotic ornament in Europe because eating it was thought to provoke bad breath, madness, leprosy and even cancer.
In African folk medicine, however, the aubergine has long been used to treat epilepsy and convulsions. In South-east Asia it is still used to treat measles and stomach cancer, although there is no scientific evidence that supports its use as a cancer treatment.