Friday, April 29, 2016

Beware of the Poisonous Eggplant

The following is from the website Savorsa.  Thanks for the info, Linda!

Q. I recently went to a farmers market and bought two smallish eggplants. They were not quite all purple, but the person selling them said the white streaks on them came from exposure to the sun. I took them home and within a couple of days sliced them, salted them, drained them and sautéed the slices to put in a pasta dish. Before assembling the dish, I took a small taste from one of the slices.

Eggplant should be ripe and (for this variety) have a firm, deep-purple skin.
It was terribly bitter, and though I didn’t swallow it, it made my throat burn. It was a very small bite, but it took a long time to get the taste out of my mouth. I threw away the eggplant and we had pasta without. Why were these so bitter?  This has never happened to me with eggplant before.
A. First of all, the problem is that these were probably young eggplants, which have a greater concentration of solanine, which is toxic. (Solanine is also found in the green part of potatoes, under the skin, and it is not good to eat it in this case, either.) Eggplant, as well as potatoes and tomatoes, are members of the nightshade family.
No matter where you are buying eggplant, be sure you are buying a mature, ripe eggplant. The information below is from Wiki Answers:
Heat (as in cooking heat) has no effect on solanine. The best way to avoid this harmful substance is to 1) choose only very ripe eggplants, 2) soak for a couple of hours in very salty warm water, rinse and soak again in tap water, 3) cook until the eggplant is very well-done (this has nothing to do with exposure to heat but rather to the breakdown in fibers and leeching out of poison this causes). Another precaution, according to Wiki,  is to peel the skin.
This is not necessarily a warning about buying produce or anything else at farmers markets. Eggplants, and many other delicious and healthful foods can be purchased there. It is a warning about knowing what you buy and how to prepare it, and what difficulties might be involved — no matter where you purchase it.


Honolulu Aunty said...

Kinda scary - I like young eggplant because of less seeds but I shall be more careful now. I usually do soak my cut pieces of eggplant in salt water and drain before frying because that way it doesn't soak up all the oil.

My favorite dish with eggplant was from the old Misuzu (no longer there - was next to St. Mary's church on King Street). They had this wonderful pork, tofu, eggplant dish that was to die for. I think they cooked each ingredient separately and then put them together for the dish with the typical Japanese soy sauce, mirin, dashi base, though the sauce was a bit thicker. SOOOO ono..... I really miss that place.

jalna said...

Me too, Aunty. I love eggplant prepared like how you describe.

Lorna Nishimitsu said...

Hmm. Never had that experience w/ eggplant being too young. When they're too old, though, they seem to have lots of seeds, and the skin seems tougher. Love fried nasubi, but those things just suck in the oil. Need to try to do what Honolulu Aunty recommends - soak first, drain, and then fry.

Anonymous said...

Honolulu Aunty: Oh yes we loved Misuzu too - wow that was a long time ago. They'd start a little fire in that small hibachi thing and bring out a pot of pork and veggies and we'd have that instead of miso soup. Sorta like a shabu shabu dish. I thought it was such a pricey and labor heavy dish for just an appetizer. We use to go there allll the time and they were so busy all the time. -N

jalna said...

You know Lorna, it did enter my mind when the bitterness lingered on my tongue for hours that it might be toxic. My mom used to dip in egg, coat in bread crumbs and fry. I loved it.

N, that sounds so good!!

Kay said...

No kidding? I didn't know that about the young eggplants. But how do you know if it's immature? The color? The size? Actually I'm not a nasubi fan, but everybody else in my family is.