When eggplant season is in full swing, I find myself buying more than I can carry. The meaty vegetable is just so versatile — throw it on the grill, roast it, stir-fry it, and more. Instead of haphazardly grabbing one and hoping for the best, be sure to check for these five things when picking out an eggplant to ensure you're getting a fresh one.
1. It's heavy for its size.
Eggplant should feel heavy in your hand, which is a sign that the flesh is fresh and in good condition. Don't be afraid to pick a few up and see how they feel.
2. The skin is vivid, smooth, and shiny.
Dull skin is a sign of poor storage and therefore poor quality, while wrinkled skin is a sign that the eggplant was harvested a long time ago and is old. This could mean that it's going to be bitter, as bitterness can come with age. Choose one whose skin is taut, vivid, and shiny instead, as that means it's freshly harvested.
Also check for any signs of bruising or discoloration, as this could mean there's damaged flesh beneath the skin.
3. The stem is green.
While important to pay attention to the skin, it's equally important to pay attention to the stem. The eggplant's stem should be green — not brown or dried out — and should be free of any mold or decay. This is another sign of how recently the vegetable was harvested.
4. It feels slightly firm.
If you press your finger against the eggplant, it should have a little give to it and bounce back, but not be as soft as, say, pressing your finger against a ripe piece of fruit. If it feels very soft, that means that the eggplant is old and overripe.
5. Choose small- to medium-sized to avoid bitterness.
While all eggplant are bred to be less bitter these days, bitterness can still occur now and again. The greatest chance for this happening is in an extra-large eggplant, as it tends to have more seeds, and the seeds are where bitterness can lie. So if you have your pick, choose a few small- or medium-sized eggplants instead of one giant one.