In Season: Eggplant

by in In Season, August 25, 2009

There aren’t many vegetables I don’t love, and it would be tough to narrow my favorites down to a top 10 list. If I had to, though, eggplants would definitely make the list. Friends often ask, “Are there ways to prepare them other than fried eggplant?” Yes, of course!

What, Where & When?
Eggplants are members of the nightshade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. Most folks recognize the classic teardrop shape and dark purple skin, but eggplants can also be round, long, fat and skinny and have white, black, white with purple stripes and pale lavender skin. The inner flesh is off-white and spongy with tiny edible seeds. Their season runs from July through October, and while they’re commonly grown throughout the world, most of the ones in the U.S. comes from Florida and New Jersey.

Nutrition Facts
Eggplants seem to be one of those love-‘em-or-hate-‘em veggies. They’ve certainly sparked all kinds of food folk lore through the years. Claims going back hundreds of years link them to insanity and leprosy and even call them an aphrodisiac. Myths aside, they’re a good-for-you, low-cal veggie. One cup of cooked eggplant has 2 grams of hunger-curbing fiber and only 35 calories. It also contains some iron, potassium, vitamin K and chlorogenic acid, a cancer-fighting antioxidant.

What To Do With Eggplant
An eggplant’s inner flesh is pretty mild, with a hint of bitterness. The skin is also edible, but can be a bit tough and very bitter. To remove some of the bitterness, you can salt cut pieces or slices and let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes (be sure to rinse well before cooking). In my experience, some eggplants are much more bitter than others; every once and while I come across a really bitter one (not my favorite). This may be a sign that they’re old.

You can bake, boil, roast, pickle or fry eggplant pieces. Their meaty texture works great in pasta dishes, casseroles and stuffed peppers. I often add diced cubes to stir-fry and grill thick slices with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for sandwiches. In my version of eggplant parm, I bread and bake the eggplant and instead of frying — this slashes the calories and fat by almost half! I also roast diced eggplant along with chunks of onion, pepper and garlic, throw it all in a food processor and puree for a sweet and savory eggplant spread, which you can use on sandwiches, wraps and dipping veggies and pita chips.

Shopping Tip: Choose eggplants with shiny and smooth skin. Pass on ones with wrinkles or brown spots. Once cut, the flesh begins to turn brown quickly so peel or cut the eggplant just before using. Eggplants don’t like super cold environments; store them in a cool, dry place on the counter for a day or two. They will keep a bit longer in the front of the refrigerator in a plastic bag.

TELL US: What’s the best way to cook up eggplant?

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Comments (40)

  1. Julie says:

    I'm a new eggplant convert and, believe it or not, have never tried it fried.
    We love ratatouille, but even better is a casserole recipe in Deborah Taylor-Hough's "Frozen Assets Lite and Easy: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month," which was recently reprinted.
    There's a grouping of eggplant recipes that are delicious and can be made now (while you're drowning in eggplant) and frozen.
    The casserole in question starts with soaking the eggplant slices in cider vinegar and involves an amazing sauce made from other garden produce that's abundant now. It's wonderful!

  2. Laine Wood says:

    Persian cooking uses a lot of eggplant…… delicious!

  3. DIANNE says:

    I dislike peppers of any kind.Can you give me recipes without them in it.I like the taste of food.I hate hot I don't want to fill up on cheese are milk to get the burning out of my mouth.I know there are more like me that just don't say anything.all peppers give heartburn and an upset stomach.

  4. ATok says:

    Eggplant also has a reputation for putting women into labor – happened to my sister-in-law twice!!! I recommend it to all my pregnant friends who are ready to go!!

  5. Eggplant is also one of my favorite vegetables. I love the recipe that is used at my favorite chinese resturant. Hot and spicy for sure. I enjoy a recipe that my Mother maid when I was a child where she would dip peeled sliced eggplant into an egg wash then fry until it was golden. Then she would place the rounds in a baking dish one layer at a time and put grated mild cheddar cheese topped with tomato sauce and diced onions. This was repeated three times. Then it was baked until the cheese and casserole was all bubbling good. We ate it with mashed potatoes and spooned the sauce over the potatoes. YUM.

  6. Sue says:

    Whenever I cut an eggplant open it turns brown. Why is that? It must have something to do with the airbut when my kids see it they refuse to eat it. . How do I know I have a fresh eggplant and not an old one that will only last another day or two?

  7. Sandy Holmes says:

    I had an eggplant dish at a Greek resturant that was even better than eggplant parm. Unfortunately it was in D.C. and I've never been back. I would love to duplicate the dish. It had onions,maybe a little tomatoe and I'm guessing Greek seasoning. Any thoughts

  8. cathy j says:

    Please help on identifying other kinds of eggplant that are less bitter perhaps than our standard purple.

  9. Ambitious says:

    I tried to roast a very old eggplant for the sake of not wasting food. I had the most spicy and bitter vegetable I ever ate!

    That's when I learned that old eggplant = bitter and nasty!

  10. Helen says:

    Eggplant sliced thin is fantastic on pizza1 Joined by tomato and cheese as it is, why not?

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