All posts by Emelia Enquist

November Veggie of the Month: Eggplant

Eggplant’s mild flavor makes it an easy, but often forgotten, addition to meals. It’s commonly shuttled to the sidelines because you might think you don’t know what to do with it. But you do! Or you will if you read on. Let us help! Take a peek into eggplant’s history and (quite tasty, if we do say so ourselves) uses.

Eggplants first appeared 2,000 years ago in India. The ancient Sanskrit language contained more than 30 names for the purple vegetable.

Through global trade, eggplants migrated from Asia and the Middle East to Africa during the Middle Ages, and then to Italy in the 1300s. Although the Europeans appreciated its lush color, shape, and blooms, they didn’t immediately buy into it as a food. They feared – incorrectly – that it was poisonous.

Founding father Thomas Jefferson first brought eggplants to the young United States in the 1800s, but it was Italian and Chinese immigrants who used their culinary skills to truly integrate them into American cuisine.

Did you know…

  • Eggplants got their name because the earliest kinds were white, so they looked like eggs hanging from the plant.
  • When you’re choosing your eggplant, pick one that’s heavy, firm, and shiny with a green stem. The smaller the eggplant, the less bitter it will be. If you do grab a bitter eggplant, you can always offset the flavor with some salt.
  • Eggplant is a great low calorie substitution for higher calorie recipe ingredients. It’s only 20 calories per cup! And that cup of eggplant has 10% of your recommended daily value of manganese, a mineral that keeps your brain, nervous system, and bones healthy.
  • Packed with antioxidants, eggplant may help prevent heart disease and cancer. It may also help lower cholesterol.
  • The high amount of fiber found in eggplant helps to keep your blood sugar levels steady.

8 ways to eat more eggplant

  1. Boom, roasted. Cut up eggplant into chunks and roast it for an easy side dish.
  2. Spin your salad. Sauté or roast, then pop it into salad.
  3. Meat cute. Grill up some thick chunks like a burger, or fry thinner slices like bacon to make your BLT an ELT.
  4. Mash up. After cooking the whole eggplant, puree or mash it into a dip. Pair with peppers, carrots, or crackers.
  5. How saucy! Make roasted or grilled eggplant the centerpiece of your pasta.
  6. Ice ice baby. Freeze slices so you can easily use them later in soups, sauces, and dips.
  7. That’s a wrap. Toss grilled or roasted eggplant into a wrap for a new take on lunch.
  8. Kebob ka-ching. Add cubed eggplant to amp up your kebobs. Try combining it with pineapple, zucchini, salmon, or peaches.

Sources: USDA, SDSU Extension, The Kitchn, University of Missouri, Healthline, Livestrong, Live Eat Learn

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Show me more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

Show me more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

August Veggie of the Month: Carrots

It’s true – carrots actually can help your eyesight! These crunchy critters get their bright orange color from beta carotene, the antioxidant our bodies turn into Vitamin A. Along with helping growth, development, and immunity, Vitamin A maintains eye health.

Late to the carrot trend? No worries. The “root” of the carrot’s legacy is long.

Carrot cultivation began in Afghanistan before the year 900. The earliest carrots were purple and yellow. In the first Arabic cookbook from around 950, Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq described the carrot as:

Juicy, tender, and delicious. Poets compare it to carnelian, rubies, flames of fire, and coral reefs.

Talk about a rave review!

Orange carrots weren’t intentionally cultivated until the 1600s in the Netherlands. Farmers may have created orange carrots to celebrate William of Orange, the Dutch leader freeing the country from Spanish control. Even though the historical accuracy of the story is debatable, the legacy and health benefits of carrots sure aren’t.

Did you know…

  • Carrots are full of complex flavors. They’re sweet, fruity, and sometimes piney.
  • Because carrots are great sources of fiber, they benefit healthy digestion and even heart health.
  • The Vitamin B6 in carrots keeps your energy levels up.
  • Carrots retain their nutritional value even when they’re cooked. Your body is able to use more of the nutrients in cooked carrots because cooking them releases beta carotene.
  • The Dakota name for wild carrots is “Pangi zizi.” Tribes would take the lead from rabbits to track down carrots on the plains.
  • The darker orange a carrot is, the more beta carotene it has. To get the most bang for your buck, choose the carrots in the deepest shades of orange.
  • You can store carrots for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.

7 ways to eat more carrots

  1. Get up and go. Chomp down on raw carrots plain. Dip them in hummus, peanut butter, or mustard for additional zip.
  2. Toss them up. Mix carrots into salads for a crunchy—and colorful—compliment.
  3. Stew on it. Take your favorite fall soups to a lush new level.
  4. Blend in. Use shredded or pureed carrots in any fruit or veggie-based smoothie for an easy nutritional boost.
  5. Add an unexpected zing. Roast carrots with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then sprinkle them with orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice, chili powder, or honey for a medley of tastes.
  6. Make them sizzle. Carrots will give your stir fry a crisp snap.
  7. Create surprising sweetness. Let vegetables sneakily take center stage at dessert with carrot cake or muffins.

Sources: SDSU Extension, Pick It! Try It! Preserve It!, Healthline, The World Carrot Museum, How Stuff Works, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, Eat Fresh

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Be sure to check out Harvest of the Month, a downloadable educational program designed to make learning about fruits and veggies easy, tasty, and fun!

Show me more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!

Show me more Fruits & Veggies of the Month!