In autumn Ibiza fields and markets are full of the rich purple hue of aubergine — berenjena in Spanish. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they are fantastically versatile and nutritious. To help you enjoy the seasonal bounty, here are 12 fun facts about aubergines plus a recipe to whet your appetite.
- Aubergine are part of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and chillies and tobacco.
- Aubergine, like tobacco, contains nicotine. But in miniscule amounts. You would have to eat about 10 kilos to get as much nicotine as one cigarette.
- Aubergine, like their cousin tomatoes, are technically a fruit.
- They are thought to be native to India or Myanmar, where they grow wild.
- Indian texts from 100 B.C. describe the health benefits of aubergines.
- Wild aubergines were prickly. Cultivated plants were bred to be smooth for easy picking.
- Arab traders were the first to bring aubergines to Spain.
- The familiar variety of dark purple aubergine is Solanum melongena.
- There are dozens of other varieties of aubergine, including Chinese, Japanese and Thai.
- Aubergines are 95 percent water.
- Salting aubergines before cooking draws out the water, making for a firmer, denser bite.
- Aubergines love hot climates and grow well on Ibiza.
This recipe for crispy aubergine with honey (berenjena con miel), a typical Catalan dish, is from Anne Sijmonsbergen’s Eivissa: The Ibiza Cookbook.
Crispy Aubergine with Honey
2-3 small, firm aubergines
75g all-purpose flour
2 pinches cayenne
Salt and pepper
For cinnamon honey
150g runny honey
1/8-1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Slice aubergine into thin ribbons using a mandolin or very sharp knife.
Salt slices and leave for 30 minutes.
Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Lay slices on a rack or kitchen roll, separated and not touching. Air dry another 30 minutes.
Season flour with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Mix honey and cinnamon. Set aside.
Heat olive oil to 180C/360F in a deep, heavy-bottomed frying pan.
Dredge slices in seasoned flour and fry a few at a time. They’ll stick together if crowded.
Cook about 2 minutes, till lightly golden.
Remove. Blot drain and blot with kitchen roll.
Reheat oil and fry aubergine another 1-2 minutes till crisp.
Drizzle with cinnamon honey and salt.