Purple eggplant skin is not an especially healthy food!
“The darker the eggplant’s skin, the more it has to offer in terms of antioxidant-rich anthocyanins.”I gagged on this sentence when I read it in the New York Times, Recipes for Health: Easing Into Fall, Taking Eggplant With You. It's a recipe for Eggplant and Tomato Pie by Martha Rose Shulman, but not just any recipe. It's a Recipe for Health.
We have tomatoes, we have eggplants, and we like eating them together, especially as pizza pie. But that line about the antioxidant-rich anthocyanins sticks in my throat, and I will not make this recipe; I don't care how healthy it purports to be!
I'm reminded of an early episode of Julia Childs's, The French Chef. As I recall, she was making a classic ratatouille and explained that eggplants with innies tended to be bitter, while those with outies were not. This was wisdom she had gleaned from her green grocer referring to the flower end of the fruits.
What?! So much for the wisdom and bitter nonsense of experts. And now back to anthocyanins or anthocyans (the cyan root should give you a hint of color). Here's the definition from Wikipedia:
from Greek: ἀνθός (anthos) = flower + κυανός (kyanos) = blue) are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue depending on the pH.Not surprisingly, the purpler the eggplant, the greater the concentration of anthocyanin, at least in the skin. It's also true that anthocyanins act as powerful antioxidants, which many people want to believe provides untold health benefits (the keyword is untold). Here's an authoritatively well-footnoted quote from Wikipedia addressing the consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods (click here if you need to verify the footnotes):
“Although anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants in vitro, this antioxidant property is unlikely to be conserved after the plant is consumed. As interpreted by the Linus Pauling Institute and European Food Safety Authority, dietary anthocyanins and other flavonoids have little or no direct antioxidant food value following digestion.”What are the health/nutrition/science editors at The Times thinking? Eat more eggplant skin, it's good for you? And don't bother eating white eggplants (they're called eggplants for a reason!), which have no detectable anthocyanins. That's according to The Handbook of Vegetable Science and Technology, in table 6 on page 234. Though the same table shows that white eggplants have a higher fiber content than most of the others tested.
Time for a radical conclusion: We may have to decide on the basis of flavor or seasonal availability which eggplants to put on our pies.
Business application: Sell dried purple eggplant-skin flakes, packaged in shakers like red pepper flakes, as a flavor enhancer and healthy addition to tofu and other favorite foods in need of enhancement. Call them AnthoFlakes and sell them in red, purple, and blue varieties—the world will beat (not beet) a path to your door!