How to Select Eggplants
Remember the 2 S’s when selecting eggplants at the grocery store: smooth and shiny. The skin of an eggplant should be free of wrinkles and blemishes and have a nice glow. Wrinkles indicate that the eggplant is past its prime. So does squishiness, so choose eggplants that are on the firmer side. This includes the stem. The stem should be firm, not mushy. Like most other produce, you want to select eggplants that are heavy for their size. Beware of large eggplants. They tend to be bitter and contain large seeds, so select ones of medium or small size.
When Are Eggplants in Season?
Eggplants are plump and glossy, with firm, meaty flesh. This close cousin of the tomato is available throughout the year but is at its peak from July to October. You’ll know you have a good one if it feels weighty and is shiny and firm.
Varieties of Eggplants
The most commonly known variety of eggplant is the globe eggplant, also known as the American eggplant. They are short, bulbous, and deep purple colored. This type is an excellent all-purpose eggplant because of its meaty texture and its content as a protein source.
Fairy Tale eggplants have attractive purple and white stripes along their plump bodies. They’re sweet to taste and have tender flesh, great for quick grilling.
Chinese eggplant, similar to Japanese eggplant, is long and narrow with a light purple exterior and white flesh. It is less bitter than globe eggplant and also has fewer seeds. This variety of eggplant is easy to slice, making it excellent for sauteing.
Graffiti eggplant, also known as Sicilian or zebra eggplant, looks like the fairy tale variety with its purple and white striping. Its skin is thin, and its seeds are small, which makes this variety suitable for pureeing or eating whole. You can use these like you would the globe eggplant.
Baby or Indian eggplants look like grapes or cherries. They are small, dark purple, and round. They are often used in Indian curries and other Indian dishes.
Little Green Eggplants is pale green and plump. They have a mild flavor, and the flesh becomes creamy when cooked. The Rosa Bianca eggplant has a mild flavor, void of the usual bitterness of other eggplants. Its small rotund body is pale purple and has delicate flesh.
Eggplant Nutrition Facts & Benefits
One cup of cubed, raw eggplant provides,
- approx 20.5 calories
- 0.1 grams of fat
- 0.8 grams of protein
- 4.8 grams of carbohydrates
- 2.9 grams of natural sugar
- 2.4 grams of fiber
Here are just a few of the many ways that eggplants can benefit your health:
1) Eggplant contains manganese, a mineral that helps maintain bone health.
2) Eggplant is a fiber-rich fruit. Fiber helps to regulate your bowel movements, digestion, and metabolism. Consuming dietary fiber is also associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
How to Store Eggplants
Eggplants do not have a generous shelf-life, so it’s best to use them within a few days of bringing them home. Eggplants are temperature sensitive. They do best in a cool, dry place away from sunlight (like a pantry). They don’t like temperatures under 50 degrees but if your house gets hot and humid in the summer, the fridge still might be the best place to store them. If you do choose to refrigerate your eggplants, first wrap them in a paper towel then place them in a perforated plastic bag. Store in the crisper section.
Whether you store them at room temperature or in the fridge, be sure to keep them away from high ethylene-producing produce like bananas, avocados, apples, and tomatoes. Eggplants bruise easily, so always handle with care.
Eggplants can also be frozen. If you won’t be using your eggplant for a while, this is your best storage option. Blanch, bake, or steam the eggplants and freeze. This method works best if you freeze slices or rounds of eggplants. You can also freeze cooked eggplant puree to be used later in stews, dips, and soups.
How to Prepare Eggplants
You can eat eggplant with or without the skin attached – it’s up to you. The skin can be tough, especially if the fruit is substantial, so many people remove it before preparing it to cook. Before you cook your eggplant, salt it to prevent the flesh from becoming soggy. The salting may also remove some of the bitter taste of many varieties of eggplant.
The firm flesh of the eggplant makes a perfect substitute for the pasta strips in lasagna. Just slice it lengthwise and layer it with a baking dish.
If you cut your eggplant into cubes, you can use it in kebabs. Eggplant slices can also be dipped in beaten eggs, breaded, and baked. Another way to eat your eggplant is to roast it, peel it, and serve it in tomato sauce over pasta.
If you prefer something more exotic, consider cubes of eggplant in a delicious curry over basmati rice or in an Asian stirfry with an abundance of other veggies.