Just a few years ago, supermarket produce departments offered only one variety of eggplant: the large Black Beauty, with its familiar dark purple skin. Many tasters found it to be mealy and unappetizing, adding eggplant to their list of “hate it” foods.
Culinary times have changed. Walk into your local natural and organic food store and you'll find a new breed of eggplants that are pleasing to the palate. Especially popular is the narrow Japanese (Oriental) eggplant, known for its sweetness and thinner skin. Italian (baby) eggplants resemble their larger purple cousins, but they’re smaller, with delicate flesh and skin. Thai eggplants are round and green (golf-ball size), often used in curry dishes and Asian soups. White eggplants are oval, with a bright green stem and heavy skin—ideal for steaming, broiling and baking.
One cup of cubed raw eggplant has:
- Only 25 calories
- No sodium, cholesterol or fat
- 2 grams of fiber
When shopping, look for:
- Firm, smooth, glossy skin (pass on those with dull skin)
- No scars, wrinkles, bruises, brown spots or soft spots
- Heavy for its size, which means it has a high moisture content
- Bright green stem (“calyx”)
- Store eggplants in a cool, dry place.
- Use within one to two days to avoid bitterness. Refrigerating them in a plastic bag may buy you a few extra days.
- Cut eggplants just before using, as their flesh discolors quickly. Use a stainless steel knife to prevent darkening.
- Don’t cook eggplant in aluminum pots or pans, which causes discoloration.
- You can bake, fry or broil eggplant. (Note: They will soak up oil, so be advised. Coating slices with crumbs can minimize fat absorption.)
- The skin is edible in young eggplants, and it’s high in fiber. Older ones should be peeled.
Sources: American Institute for Cancer Research, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Inc.