Every Friday, KitchenDaily's editors select a question from our Facebook fans and answer it in this weekly column. This week, we explain the misconception that eggplant is poisonous.
Facebook fan Robyne Jones Konz: I love cooked eggplant, however, I have always been under the impression that since it's in the nightshade family, it can be poisonous if not cooked. True or false?
False, raw eggplants are not poisonous. However, the leaves and flowers of the plant can be toxic. Plants in the nightshade family -- which includes eggplants, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and tomatillos -- contain an alkaloid called solanine, which in very large doses can be poisonous. For the average adult, 400 mg of solanine would be life-threatening. Vegetables in the nightshade family contain anywhere from 2 to 13mg of solanine and eggplants contain 11mg at the most. So you would have to eat 36 raw eggplants to cause any harm.
Therefore, there's no need to be concerned about eating reasonable amounts of raw eggplant. You should, however, be wary of green potatoes. They turn green when they're exposed to the light, skyrocketing their solanine levels -- so eating green potatoes is not recommended. Neither is eating the leaves of any nightshade plant.
There are some people -- a very small percentage of the population -- who are allergic to nightshade vegetables and cannot eat them. Other people might find that brushing up against the plants causes skin irritation, but it's no more than itching. As we know, these vegetables are not poisonous, otherwise we wouldn't be eating potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, etc.
We of course do enjoy fresh tomatoes raw, but potatoes and eggplants? They're not so tasty raw, but that doesn't mean they can't be eaten raw. So the moral of the story is ... keep eating eggplant! It's delicious in many forms.
Watch Food Network personality Alton Brown make the eggplant dip baba ghanoush.