AUBERGINE (also known as EGGPLANT): It is a species of nightshade and its other names are melongene, garden egg or quinea squash. It is known in South and Southeast Asia and South Africa as Brinjal. It bears fruit of the same name that is widely used in cooking, most notably as an important ingredient in dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille. As a member of the genus Solanum, it is related to both the tomato and potato. It was originally domesticated in India and Bangladesh from the wild nightshade, the thorn or bitter apple, Solanum incanum.
Aubergine is low in fat, protein and carbohydrates, and also contains relatively low amounts of most important vitamins and minerals. The nicotine content of aubergines, a concentration of 0.01mg per 100g, is low in absolute terms, but is higher than any other edible plant. The amount of nicotine consumed by eating eggplant may be comparable to being in the presence of a smoker, depending on the cooking method. On average, 9kg (20lbs) of eggplant contains about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.
I have never used aubergine in cooking but then I am not very adventurous in the kitchen.
ASPARAGUS: Asparagus officinalis is a spring vegetable, a flowering perennial plant species in the genus Asparagus. it was once classified in the lily family, like its Allium cousins, onions and garlic, but the Lilaceae have been split and the onion-like plants are now in the family Amarylildaceae and asparagus in the Asparagaceae. It is native to most of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia, and is widely cultivated as a crop.
It is a herbaceous, perennial plant with stout stems with much-branched feathery foliage. The flowers are bell shaped, greenish-white to yellowish and are produced singly or in clusters. It is usually dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants, but sometimes hermaphrodite flowers are found. The fruit is a small red berry which is poisonous to humans.
Asparagus has been used as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavour, diuretic properties, and more. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating back to 3000BC. In ancient times it was also known in Syria and Spain. The finest texture and the strongest and yet most delicate taste is in the tips. Asparagus became available to the New World around 1850, in the United States.
I have to admit I have never cooked asparagus but have eaten plenty of tinned asparagus with salads in summer. I love the flavour.
ARTICHOKE: There are two types of artichoke that I know of: Globe and Jerusalem.
The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a variety of a species of thistle cultivated as a food. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom. The budding artichoke flower-head is a cluster of many budding small flowers, an inflorescence (together with many bracts) on an edible base.
Once the buds bloom the structure changes to a coarse, barely edible form. The uncultivated or wild variety of the species is called a cardoon. It is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region.
The naturally occurring variant of the artichoke, the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) which is native to the Mediterranean areas, has records of use as food among the ancient Greeks and Roman.
Apart from food use, the globe artichoke is also an attractive plant for its bright floral display, sometimes grown in herbaceous borders for its bold foliage and large purple flower heads.
The total antioxidant capacity of artichoke flower heads is one of the highest reported for vegetables.
Cynarine is a chemical constituent of Cynara. Studies have shown artichoke to aid digestion, hepatic and gall bladder function and raise the ratio of HDL to LDL thus reducing cholesterol levels and diminishing the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Artichoke leaf extract has proded helpful for patients with functional dyspepsia. and may ameliorate symptoms of irritiable bowel syndrome (here I am only quoting what is written on Wikipedia so would seek medical advice before even considering any of this).
I have of course never cooked this vegetable but occasionally buy them tinned as I enjoy their flavour. They are a little expensive but I think, if it is true about lowering cholesterol, I may place one tin on my weekly grocery order when Phil goes to do the shopping. They are lovely to eat when having a salad meal.
The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also called sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinamboure, is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. It is also cultivated widely across the temperate zone for its tuber, which is used as root vegetable.
The tubers are sometimes used as as substitute for potatoes: they have a similar consistencym and in their raw form have a similar texture, but a sweeter. nuttier flavour; raw and sliced thinly, theya re fit for a salad. The carbohydrates give the tubers a tendency to become soft and mush if boiled but they retain their texture better when steamed.
The inulin they contain cannot be broken down by the human digestive system, but is metabolized by bacteria in the colon. This can cause flatulence and, in some case. gastric pain. Gerard's Herbal, printed in 1921, quotes the English planter John Goodyer on Jerusalem artichokes:
"which way soever they be dressed and eaten they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat fit more for swine than men."
On a website called "Bon Appetit" I found reference to the effects of eating these artichokes where a cook was quoted as saying:
"recently, the Jerusalem artichoke has come to be known as another darker name" the Fartichoke. For all its popularity, it is still known to some as a bowel-busting terror. The vegetable is made of a carbohydrate called inulin, instead of a tuber's typical starch, and inulin has an Ex-Lax-like effect on the human digestive system - we can't digest it naturally. so our gut bacterias go to town.
Apart from that, Jerusalem artichokes have 650mg potassium per 1 cup (150g) serving. They are also high in ironm and contain 10-12% of the US RDA of fibre, niacin, thiamine phosphorous and copper.
I was fascinated by the above as I new absolutely nothing about the Jerusalem artichoke although I had of course heard the name. In another article it stated they were good for type 2 diabetics (such as Phil and myself) but I think we'll leave them alone as, at our age, one does have to be careful of what one puts in one's mouth and the side effects of these are not be considered.