We've reached that wonderful time in August when eggplants in their many shapes and colors have taken over more than a few tables at the farmers market. While eggplant is readily available throughout the year, its peak season is right now, from August through October.
From choosing the right fruit (yes, eggplant is a fruit!), to storing it and of course, eating it, we're sharing everything you need to know about eggplant. Or, aubergines, if you prefer.
Along with tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes, eggplant is a member of the nightshade family. There was a time when it was thought that raw eggplant was poisonous, but that's not the case.
When eaten raw, eggplant has a somewhat bitter, but pleasant taste and spongy texture. Once cooked, though, the taste becomes more mild and a bit richer. It also takes on a soft, creamy texture.
How to Choose an Eggplant
Not all eggplants are created equal. No matter the variety, choose an eggplant that feels firm and heavy for its size. The skin should be vivid, glossy-looking and free from scars or blemishes. Avoid eggplants with discolored skin or any bruising, which usually indicate damaged flesh on the inside.
It's best to use eggplant soon after buying or picking it from the garden. Within 1-3 days is a good rule of thumb to follow. Eggplant is delicate and simply doesn't store well for long periods of time.
Store eggplant in a cool, dry area and avoid keeping it in the refrigerator. Eggplant is generally grown in temperate climates and doesn't fare well in cold temperatures, like that of your refrigerator.
There's certainly no shortage of ways to enjoy eggplant! While it can be eaten raw, eggplant is even most wonderful when it's grilled, baked, braised or cooked and pureed into a dip.
What's your favorite way to prepare eggplant?
Updated from a post originally published July 2008.
(Image credits: iomis/Shutterstock)