Your Shopping List

View Shopping List

Now is the Perfect Time to Enjoy this Misunderstood “Veggie!”


If we asked the question,

 

"what is the one vegetable that you just don't know what to do with?", what would you say?

So many people respond to us by saying...

"eggplant!"

 

Eggplant is one of the most misunderstood vegetables…or should we say, fruits.  And, yes, in case you were wondering, the eggplant is a fruit (it is actually a variety of berry), not a vegetable!

And, it is now in-season...this is the perfect time of year to enjoy it!

 

Are you an eggplant lover?

In our experience, there are not too many eggplant lovers out there.  Many people we talk to say it is spongy, chewy, or bitter.  For those who do like it, the most frequent response is..."oh, I love eggplant parmesan!"  Believe it or not, there are lots of other spectacular meals you can make to take advantage of eggplant’s fantastic taste and texture!

My husband and I both grew up thinking we didn't like eggplant.  When I asked why he didn't like it, he said "I never really tried it.  And, as a kid, I didn't like eggs, and it had the word 'egg' in it, so, I just always thought I didn't like eggplant."  (Just goes to show how far we have come in changing our perspective about REAL food!)

Several years ago, we brought an eggplant home from the farmers' market because we were intrigued, but definitely still skeptical.  We were like most everyone else...we perceived eggplant to have a spongy texture and bitter taste and that was enough to make us avoid it up to that point.  All that changed when our taste buds met the Cod Ratatouille Pasta and Mini Eggplant Pizzas!

 

What's so special about eggplant?

You may also hear eggplant called aubergine, which is common in parts of Europe.  The eggplant is actually related to the tomato, and originally came from South and East Asia.  Some 18th century varieties resembled goose or hen's eggs...hence the name "eggplant."  In many parts of the country, eggplant is in-season from August through October, so now is the perfect time to enjoy it!

 

Is eggplant good for you?

YES!  Eggplant is a great source of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants.  Much of the nutrition comes from the skin...so don't peel it!  Eggplant also helps your heart health, boosts your immune system, and improves your resistance to a number of diseases.  One cup of eggplant only has 20 calories!

Zonya Says:

It is so true that eggplant is awesomely nutritious, and creates a wonderful variety when added to the menu.  Although the number is low, it is important to know an estimated 1% of people are sensitive to "nightshade vegetables," which include eggplant, along with tomatoes, potatoes and peppers.  Those who suffer with arthritis might be among the people that are sensitive.  Check out our coaching tips to read more about controlling arthritis with REAL food and more about nightshade vegetables!

 

All shapes and sizes -- they don't all look the same!

IMG_2694There are hundreds of different varieties of eggplant...and they are not all purple!  Some of the most popular varieties include:

  • American Eggplant:  this is the dark purple pear-shaped variety we are most familiar with.
  • Chinese Eggplant:  lighter purple and long and skinny, this variety has a thinner skin and tends to be less bitter.
  • Italian Eggplant:  smaller and a little skinnier, these are dark purple and very similar to the American eggplant.
  • Japanese Eggplant:  long and skinny, the Japanese variety has a thin skin and sweeter flavor.
  • White Eggplant:  similar to the Italian eggplant, the white variety has a firmer skin but delicate flavor.
  • Thai Eggplant:  this variety looks like green golf balls.  They come in different colors but are usually mixed with yellow or white.  They can be more bitter than other varieties.
  • Indian Eggplant:  looks like a baby eggplant with a dark purple skin.  It has a mild and slightly sweet flavor and a creamy texture when cooked.

 

How do you pick it?

 

  • It should feel firm and heavy for its size.
  • Look for smooth, shiny skin with no blemishes or bruises.
  • The color should be vibrant and the stem and cap should be bright green.
  • Wrinkled, loose skin is an indication of age. (Funny, I guess we have more in common with eggplant than we thought!)
  • To test for ripeness, gently press the skin. If it springs back, it is ripe, but if it leaves an indentation, it is not ready yet.
  • Some say they think the smaller ones tend to be less bitter than the larger ones.

 

How to store it?

 

  • Don't cut it before storing -- it will turn slightly brown like an apple.  (TIP:  to reduce the brown and bitterness, you can brush lemon juice on the eggplant slices or place them in a bowl of water with a teaspoon of salt, and soak for 20 minutes.  Rinse, pat dry and proceed with your recipe.)  Keep in mind, this soaking step is completely optional.
  • Eggplant is best stored in a cool spot away from direct sunlight (the ideal temperature is 50 to 55 degrees).  If you don't have a cool, dark spot to store them, you can keep the in your fridge (ideally in the crisper) for a few days.  Just be aware that cold temperatures can affect the texture and flavor.
  • Using fresh eggplant within a few days will provide the best results.

 

What do you do with it?  How do you cook it?

The good news is it's super-easy to cook!

Simple ways to make eggplant taste amazing include sautéing, roasting and grilling (with a little olive oil, salt and pepper of course).  When cooked, it has a tender, rich flavor...no spongy bitterness!  Eggplant also does a great job absorbing sauces it is cooked in, making it ideal to use in curries, sauces, stews and pasta dishes...among many others!

Try to avoid frying eggplant -- it will absorb up to four times as much fat as potatoes when they are fried…this can add significant unnecessary calories to your meal.

Many recipes require you to slice and salt the eggplant, and then let it sit for a few minutes before cooking.  The idea is that the salt reduces the bitterness, but this steps really isn’t necessary because modern eggplants tend to be less bitter.

Check out our video to see why Roasted Eggplant Bruschetta is one of our favorites -- especially in the summer!

There are several recipes on Eat REAL America…and, of course, we have our favorites...

 

 

 

We encourage you to try this under-appreciated veggie (or fruit) in some of these and other delicious meals!

We would love to hear your ideas of what you do with eggplant and which variety you like best!

 

 

 

Leave A Comment


6 Responses to Now is the Perfect Time to Enjoy this Misunderstood “Veggie!”

  1. I have made the eggplant pizza (awesome)!

    I also use eggplant in stir fries along with squash, zucchini and onions (very tasty).

    • Yay Linda! I suggest you put the Roasted Eggplant Bruschetta on your list to make next. You will LOVE IT!

  2. Moussaka is my favorite eggplant dish. And now I’m realizing I haven’t had it in ages. Will have to add it to the rotation soon!

  3. As you might guess from my first name, I am a Greek-American – with both sets of Grandparents coming to the US from Greece in the early 1900’s. In my younger years, I used to host several quite large summer gatherings and a Greek eggplant-based dish called Moussaka has always been one of the most popular things I served – and the first to disappear from the buffet table. I loved that I could make it well ahead of time, freeze three or four pans of it, then bake it on the day of the party. I have two favorite moussaka versions – one topped with a rich béchamel sauce (which most people love) and a lighter one topped with a bread crumb/cheese mixture.

    • Thank you for inspiring us! We will have to come up with an eggplant Moussakka recipe for the website – it sounds delicious! We secretly wish we could be part of your family gatherings with amazing food like that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.