Thursday 21 March 2013

This Brinjal is not a vegetable

It is by no stretch of imagination a brinjal. Yet it is called so. Moreover, it is not a vegetable but a fruit but in India it is called a vegetable and people prepare dishes with it.
Though it does not originate in India, it is named after an Indian city. The entire plant is a gastronomic delight. Most people think that only the fruit is edible. However, its root, stem, seeds and leaves are edible as well.
The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetables, while the shoots and leaves are often consumed in salads and stir fries, especially in Asia. Like other members of the gourd family, such as cucumbers, melons, and squash, chayote has a sprawling habit, and it should only be planted if there is plenty of room in the garden.
It is known by different names in different countries and even in India it is known by different names in different states. Though it was not a native of India, it is now one of the most widely consumed vegetable.
First introduced in Bangalore in the 1800s, it has quickly taken root and today it is grown across several states, including Karnataka.
The credit for introducing this foreign vegetable, sorry fruit, goes to James Cameroon, the then Superintendent of Lalbagh.  Cameroon was personally entrusted with the job of looking after the Cypress Gardens in Bangalore soon after the death of Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799.
Cameroon took his job with sincerity and went about his task with utmost  dedication and devotedness. He imported several varieties of plants, flowers and trees and planted them in Lalbagh.
One  of his imports was Chow Chow which is also called as Bangalore Brinjal. The name Bangalore Brinjal is misleading as it did not originate in the city. However, it was in Bangalore that this was first introduced.
The Bangalore Brinjal is actually a native of south America. If the keenness to document local plants went hand-in-hand with an awareness of plants across the world. Due to the moderate weather in Bangalore, he introduced many foreign varieties, one of which is the chow-chow or "Bangalore brinjal", a plant native to Middle America.
It is more popularly known as the chayote (Sechium edule). Other names are christophene or christophine, cho-cho, mirliton or merleton, chuchu (Brazil), centinarja (Malta), pear squash, vegetable pear, chouchoute, choko, pipinola, güisquil (El Salvador).
Chayote is originally native to Mexico where it grows abundantly and has little commercial value. Subsequently, it was introduced as a crop all over Latin America, and worldwide. The main growing regions are Brazil, Costa Rica, Veracruz  and Mexico. While Costa Rican chayotes are predominantly exported to the European Union,  Veracruz exporters mainly to the United States.
The plant was first recorded by botanists in P Browne’s  1756 work, “The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica”. In 1763, it was classified by Jacquin as Sicyos edulis and by Adanson as Chocho edulis. It was left to Swartz  to include it in 1800 in its current genus Sechium.
Chayote is popular in South Indian cuisine. It is referred to as Bangalore brinjal and is used in vegetable stews.
In TamilNadu, it is known as Chuw Chuw and is widely used in everyday cooking for Saambar or Kootu. Kannidigas call it Seeme Badanekai.
Whether raw or cooked, our Bangalore Brinjal is an excellent source of amino acids and vitamin C.
The leaves and fruit have diuretic, cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory properties, and a tea made from leaves has been used in the treatment of arteriosclerosis and hypertension and to dissolve kidney stones.
Chayote is good for the heart and may even help prevent cancer.
An excellent source of folate, this is a B vitamin which helps prevent homocystein build-up. Studies have shown that too much of this amino acid in the blood is linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
It also helps prevent cancer as it has abundant Vitamin C. This Vitamin is known as one of the most powerful antioxidants which can protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants may slow or possibly prevent cancer development. It also helps the body produce energy. Its manganese content helps the body convert protein and fat to energy.
Recent research has pinpointed that Bangalore Brinjal can help
prevent constipation as its fiber promotes bowel regularity. It also keeps the thyroid healthy, prevents acne, leg cramps and bone loss and reduces blood pressure.   
Bangalore Brinjal is also good for the brain as the Vitamin B6 helps improve memory.  

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