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Guide to Eggplant

Guide to Eggplant

This glossy, plump vegetable with its firm, meaty flesh is the perfect base for a host of dishes—pastas, burgers, seafood dishes, and meatless favorites.

SEASON: Although available year-round, eggplant is at its peak from July to October.

CHOOSING: When selecting, look for eggplants with firm, glossy skin. Size and color vary widely among types, but the eggplant should feel heavy. Avoid those with wrinkled skin, soft spots, or brown patches.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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STORING: Store whole, unwashed eggplants in a produce bag to retain moisture and prevent shriveling. Because it can’t withstand temperatures below 45 degrees without damage, keep eggplant in your vegetable bin or the warmest section of your refrigerator.

GROWING: Like its cousin the tomato, eggplant is a summer favorite in most of the country. However, it can be grown and harvested in warmer regions like Florida from fall to spring.

The standard favorite, Black Beauty, is a good choice, but so are the long, lavender Oriental eggplants, the white ones that actually look like eggs, and even orange and green ones. The more unusual the eggplant, the more likely it will be that you need to start from seeds.

No matter which variety you choose, plant in the spring after the soil and air have warmed. Make up for the lost time by starting with transplants, even if you grow them yourself indoors.

Choose a sunny location with well-prepared soil and good drainage. Large-fruited types need to be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, while the long, slender types can be set 1 to 2 feet apart. It’s a good idea to use a stake at planting time to support the plant later when it’s heavy with fruit. Small cages often used for tomatoes are a wonderful tool for eggplant.

Feed with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer at planting. Fertilize again every month throughout the season. Keep the soil evenly moist by watering at least an inch each week. Mulch to prevent drying. When it’s time to harvest, use clippers to cut the eggplants from the plant.

Summer Produce Guide: Eggplant

Tips for buying, storing, and cooking eggplant, plus our favorite eggplant recipes.

Matt Taylor-Gross

Technically a type of berry that belongs to the nightshade family, eggplant is a highly versatile fruit that peaks in August and September. Introduced to Japan in the 8th century, Europe in the 13th, and North America in the 16th, they’ve since become a highly popular ingredient in cuisines all over the world. The large, bulbous, deep purple variety is the most common in supermarkets in the U.S., but eggplants come in an incredible range of sizes, shapes, and colors, from smaller Italian eggplants to slender, mild Asian varieties to meaty, dense white-skinned eggplants and more. No matter the type, we love cooking with them all through the summer they take well to baking, broiling, and frying alike.

Globe Eggplants

When you visit your grocery store, you will see Globe eggplants, also known as American eggplants. They are defined by their deep purple color that is also quite shiny.

Globe eggplants are large in size, and their inside pulp is very versatile. In fact, their texture is sometimes described as quite meaty and therefore can even be used as a protein substitute. Large slices from Globe eggplants are often sued for eggplant lasagna.

Italian Eggplants

If you take Globe eggplants and compact them, you just might find yourself with something that looks like Italian eggplants. With a similar color, this variety is squatter and smaller.

Italian eggplants are also a bit sweeter than typical eggplants but still have a nice, spongy texture to them. They pair really well with salty flavors such as cheese and are perfect in a lasagna.

Japanese Eggplants

While they do come from Japan, these eggplants are definitely not limited to Japanese cuisine. Instead, these long, thin eggplants can be used for all sorts of dishes, including stir-fries.

Japanese eggplants have a bright purple color to them and are perfect when sliced into large chunks. They are often cut slightly on an angle but in a whole circle to really show off their delightful color.

Indian Eggplants

While most eggplants are long in shape, Indian eggplants are actually almost round in shape. They are still that lovely, characteristically purple color that we identify with eggplants.

Indian eggplants, because of their shape, are usually cut into cubes or chunks they are perfect for stir-fries and stews. Also because of their shape, you can stuff Indian eggplants, similar to how you would stuff peppers.

Thai Eggplants

Even though this is definitely a variety of eggplant, Thai Eggplants are quite different than what you would expect. The biggest shock is that they are small and orb-like, and the second discovery is that, while they can be purple, they can also be green.

Thai eggplants have a slightly more bitter taste than other varieties of eggplants, although this can be remedied if you remove their seeds before cooking. They are often paired with curries.

Rosa Bianca Eggplants

While some eggplants have a deep violet color to them, Rosa Bianca eggplants instead have a more subdued, lilac color. They are quite wide but shorter than other varieties.

Rosa Bianca eggplants are not at all bitter, which makes them a favorite among home cooks. They are best grilled or roasted as there is plenty of meat inside these plump eggplants.

Kermit Eggplants

Grown in Thailand, Kermit eggplants have a vivid green color to them and are about the size of golf balls. They can also be found in lavender-colored varieties.

Kermit eggplants are often used in curry dishes because their dense flesh won’t fall apart when cooking. In fact, these eggplants are able to soak up plenty of liquid and infuse their meat with the meal’s flavors.

Orient Express Eggplant

Long and slim, Orient Express eggplants have a vivid purple color to them. They are perfect for grilling.

If you are planning on growing this variety in your garden, expect a bit of a waiting period for the seeds to take hold. However, your patience will be paid off as once they start growing, they will be ready quite quickly

Barbarella Eggplants

Coming from Turkey, Barbarella eggplants are an extremely deep purple color, almost looking like black in certain parts of the day. They are unique in that their texture resembles bread, and can be used as a substitute for those who are gluten-intolerant.

Barbarella eggplants are very versatile. They can be sliced and grilled, or they can be baked and used in dishes such as lasagna or eggplant parmesan.

Turkish Orange Eggplants

When we think of eggplants, we often envision a form of purple coloring. However, with Turkish Orange eggplants, this variety actually better resembles a tomato, thanks to their red-orange hue.

Turkish Orange eggplants have a small, orb shape to them. They are great when grilled and just need a dash of oil and salt to bring out their robust flavor.

Fairy Tale Eggplants

Looking like it has come out of a children’s fairy tale, this type of eggplants has a lovely purple and white mottled color. Fairy Tale eggplants have small white stripes which contrast wonderfully with their deep violet color.

Fairy Tale eggplants are a bit smaller in size than other varieties and are thus best used with grilling or sir-fries. They have a creamy, sweet texture to them that makes them a real showstopper with dinner.

Calliope Eggplants

A native of India, Calliope eggplants can now be found around the world although they prefer cooler climates. They are a gorgeous purple color with white streaks and are a bit bulbous in size.

The nice thing about Calliope eggplants is that they still taste delicious whether they are picked as a young plant or fully mature, which gives you more options when growing them.

Ping Tung Eggplants

Mainly grown in Taiwan, Ping Tung eggplants are long and narrow, with a deep purple color to them. Inside, you will find flesh that is nice and sweet and when cooked, becomes very tender.

Ping Tung eggplants don’t have to be peeled, and instead you can enjoy their bright purple color even after they have been cooked. They also aren’t bitter and even kids will enjoy their taste.

White Eggplants

As you would expect from their name, White eggplants are completely white, which is not what you would expect from typical eggplants. However, they are the same, long shape as standard American eggplants.

White eggplants even taste the same as what you would expect, with a meaty texture to them. They can be grilled or roasted.

Little Green Eggplants

As their name suggests, Little Green eggplants are both little and green. They have a cute, round shape to them that makes them simply adorable. The only problem is that it can be hard to know when they are ripe, thanks to their color.

Little Green eggplants have a mild flavor that adapts well to what they are being cooked with. Furthermore, they have a creamy texture to them, making them perfect for stir-fries where they are the star of the dish.

Machiaw Eggplants

A type of Japanese eggplant, Machiaw eggplants are long and thin with a very bright purple color to them. They are distinguished by their thin skin and their relative lack of seeds.

Machiaw eggplants are actually a hybrid variety and while they are usually bright purple, you can find a dark pink color or even a deep violet color.

Santana Eggplants

Some eggplants are small but with Santana eggplants, you’ll be surprised at just how large they are. One eggplant is sure to feed a family for quite a few meals.

Santana eggplants are dark purple in color and have a teardrop shape to them. They are often grilled as the slices don’t split open during cooking and thus retain their shape. Another nice aspect of Santana eggplants is that they don’t have a stringy texture.

Tango Eggplants

While there aren’t many eggplant varieties that are white in color, there are some, such as Tango eggplants. They are a bit long in shape, but can resemble either eggs or pears, depending on how rounded they are.

The one important thing to remember about Tango eggplants is that their peel is not really edible. It is quite thick, so needs to be peeled first however, the meat inside is nice and creamy.

A Visual Guide to 8 Glorious Varieties of Eggplant

If you’ve only ever picked up an eggplant at the grocery store, you may think that each and every eggplant is the same — large, oblong, and deep purple. Well, take a walk through a farmers market mid-summer and you’ll realize that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are countless varieties out there, all unique in their own way. We picked 8 of our favorites to share so the next time you’re at the market, you’ll be inspired to try whichever you may find.

1. Graffiti Eggplant

Graffiti eggplant, sometimes called Sicilian eggplant, get its name from its purple and white stripes. Unfortunately, the stripes do disappear when the eggplant is cooked. This variety is completely multi-purpose — it can be used in any recipe regular eggplant is called for.

2. Italian Eggplant

While it may look a whole lot like the standard globe eggplant you find at the grocery store, Italian eggplant is distinct. It’s slightly smaller, but still quite large and fat, and the flesh tends to be more tender. Use it in any preparation, but of course it’s wonderful used in Italian dishes like caponata.

3. Japanese and Chinese Eggplant

Characterized by their long, narrow shape, both Japanese and Chinese eggplant can be hard to differentiate. Japanese eggplant tends to have a much deeper purple color, while Chinese eggplant is usually lighter, more lavender-purple, and is sometimes even longer. Both have a nice, thin skin, don’t contain many seeds, and have flesh that’s extra creamy when cooked. Use either just like regular eggplant, but they’re particularly great grilled or in stir-fries.

16 Eggplant Recipes That Celebrate the Gorgeous Summer Vegetable

With its gorgeous aubergine hue, sweet, slightly bitter flavor, and endless possibilities for preparation, eggplant is one of our favorite vegetables to cook with. Technically a fruit, it comes in a range of shapes and colors including graffiti eggplant (white and purple striped), smaller Italian eggplant, and white eggplant. Globe eggplants are, however, the largest and most common. The smaller Japanese eggplant is long and narrow, with fewer seeds, thinner skin, and a milder, less bitter flavor than the globe variety. Try these eggplant recipes as a delicious way to enjoy the vegetable.

Though available year-round, eggplant peaks in the summer. When shopping for eggplant, here's what to look for: The flesh of an eggplant should give a bit when gently pressed it should have no hard spots. The skin should be shiny and smooth, not wrinkled or mottled. Stems should be green. Avoid those with brown or soft spots. Whole eggplant will keep up to a few days in a cool place. Avoid storing in the refrigerator, as this will damage the eggplant's texture.

Now get to work! When grilled, eggplant develops a smoky, sweet flavor and its texture becomes so tender. We love it in Italian-inspired dishes, such as Eggplant Parmesan (grilled or breaded!) and Tomato-Eggplant Gnocchi, which is a quick and delicious weeknight meal. Eggplant is also a popular ingredient used in lots of traditional Indian dishes here, we're sharing a few of our favorite preparations. Indian Eggplant (Bharta) is a fabulous dip that's a little spicy and a little savory. It can be served alongside naan or pita for a delicious appetizer, or over rice for a vegetarian meal.

Roasted or grilled, sliced or puréed, these eggplant recipes are absolutely delicious.

Eggplant Recipes: Tunisian Eggplant Will Be Your New Favorite (PHOTOS)

Welcome to the fifth installment of "WTF, CSA?" Periodically, throughout this CSA season, we'll help you make use of your overflowing CSA baskets. You ask, we answer. That's how this works. Or rather, you shouted, "WTF?" into your CSA box and now we're going to tell why that eggplant looks like that and what to do with it.

Eggplant can be so mysterious. A member of the nightshade family, it is unexpectedly related to the tomatoes and potatoes. Eggplant is unlike any other vegetable, with its meaty texture, thick skin and ability to stand up to a variety of cooking methods.

We got an email from a friend recently, who had no idea that what she'd received in her CSA box were eggplants, because of how different they all looked. Eggplants can come in many different colors and shapes, from the big, purple, Italian bell-shapes we all know, to thin snake-like Japanese eggplant. Eggplants can be purple, white, speckled, yellow and green. You can pickle them, roast them, grill them. look, there are a lot of options and we're getting tired just thinking of them.

To cut down on eggplant fatigue, we've decided to simply share with you the single greatest eggplant recipe of all time. That's right, we said it. This is it. Mollie Katzen's recipe for Tunisian Eggplant is a mediterranean take on eggplant caponata, something we're all pretty familiar with.

But there is something magical in the mathematics of this recipe: it is better than the sum of its parts. Something happens when the tomato paste melts into the red wine vinegar and coats your veggies like a blanket. This recipe is delicious hot, cold, room temperature, in a sandwich, with pita bread, eaten directly from the pot with a fork -- like eggplant itself, the possibilities are endless.

Is this a beautiful, complicated dish? No. But it is simple, perfect and you will figure out exactly how to tweak it to make your tastebuds reach maximum happiness.

Tunisian Eggplant -- From "Still Life With Menu" by Mollie Katzen
(recipe re-printed with author's permission)

Preparation Time: About 40 minutes
Yield: Appetizer for six

Here is a South Mediterranean version of eggplant caponata (the famous Italian eggplant salad) featuring two outstanding guest stars: green olives and marinated artichoke hearts. It is so good it must be served as a course unto itself, accompanied by wedges of pita bread. (If you serve it with anything else, the other dish, no matter how good, might go unnoticed. *Ed Note: That is the TRUTH.)

It keeps beautifully, so go ahead and make it three or four days ahead of time, if that is most convenient for you.

1/4 cup olive oil (or more, as needed)
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 medium-sized cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
1 large eggplant (peeling optional), cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup small pitted green olives
1 small jar (6 ounce) marinated artichoke hearts (drained, each piece cut into 2 or 3 smaller pieces)
pinches of dried tarragon, basil and/or oregano (optional)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic and salt, and sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent (5 to 8 minutes).
  2. Add the eggplant cubes, stir and cover. Cook until the eggplant is very well done (15 to 20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add small amounts of additional oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to prevent sticking.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and vinegar, and heat to the boiling point. Add the olives and remove from heat.
  4. Stir in the artichoke hearts, then cool to room temperature. Taste to adjust the seasonings, adding the optional herbs, if desired.
  5. Cover tightly and chill. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Still need more eggplant ideas? Check out the slideshow below.

Are There Different Types of Eggplant?

The most common variety you’ll see in the grocery store is the globe eggplant, which is large, oblong (despite its spherical-sounding name), and deep glossy purple—almost identical to the Italian eggplant, which is slightly smaller and usually more tender. Don’t sweat the differences, though.

You’re increasingly likely to find Japanese or Chinese eggplants too, long and narrow (more akin to oversize cucumbers in shape), and generally lighter in color, anywhere from pale lavender to deep violet. These tend to have thinner skin, fewer seeds, and flesh that cooks up especially creamy, making them great in stir fries and grilled recipes, but if you can’t find them, you can always substitute the supermarket standard.

Other more exotic eggplants are out there (white ones, “baby” ones, various heirlooms, Thai and Indian cultivars), and while they all have their finer points, you can use whichever type you find or fancy in any given eggplant recipe. Incidentally, the first varieties introduced to Europe were much smaller, and pale yellow or white, resembling the eggs of hen or geese, hence the common name we know and love to say today.

    • 6 or 8 small, 2 or 3 medium, or 1 or 2 large eggplant, about 2 pounds
    • Salt and black pepper to taste
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, or more if you like
    • Chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves for garnish
    1. Peel the eggplant if you like. If you have any doubt about its quality, cut it into 1-inch cubes and place them in a colander. Sprinkle liberally with salt, at least a tablespoon toss the eggplant to distribute the salt. Let sit in a sink or over a bowl, undisturbed, for at least 30 and preferably 60 minutes. It will shed a good deal of liquid. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can, rinse with fresh water, and pat dry.
    2. Put the oil and all but 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Two minutes later, add the eggplant cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, 15 minutes or longer, adjusting the heat as necessary so the eggplant browns as quickly as possible without burning.
    3. Add the remaining garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more taste and adjust the seasoning, then stir in a handful of parsley and cook for a few more seconds. Garnish with some more parsley and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
    1. This is good with a few capers, too: In step 3, before adding the garlic, stir in about 2 cups chopped tomatoes (ripe, fresh ones are best, but canned are acceptable). Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break up, then add the garlic and proceed.
    1. In step 3, before adding the garlic, stir in about 1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably fresh (page 580). Cook for about a minute, until they begin to brown, then add the garlic.
    1. In step 2, use butter if you prefer add 2 cups sliced onion and 1 or more stemmed, seeded, and minced fresh green chiles, like jalapeños. Cook until the onion softens, then add the eggplant and proceed. In step 3, add 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger along with the garlic and use cilantro and mint in place of the parsley or basil.
    1. In step 2, cook 2 bell peppers—red, yellow, green, or a combination (or you can use mild poblano chiles), cored, seeded, and cut into strips—with the eggplant, until tender. In step 3, mix the remaining garlic with 1 cup yogurt, beaten until smooth, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Remove the eggplant and peppers from the pan and pour this sauce over them serve hot.
    1. Just before serving, lightly brown 1/4 cup pine nuts in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil stir this into the cooked eggplant.

    The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman. © 2005 by Mark Bittman. Published by Broadway Books. All Rights Reserved.

    MARK BITTMAN is the author of the blockbuster The Best Recipes in the World (Broadway, 2005) and the classic bestseller How to Cook Everything, which has sold more than one million copies. He is also the coauthor, with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, of Simple to Spectacular and Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef. Mr. Bittman is a prolific writer, makes frequent appearances on radio and television, and is the host of The Best Recipes in the World, a 13-part series on public television. He lives in New York and Connecticut.

    3 Eggplant Recipes That Every Hater Should Try

    “Teach me how to like eggplants.” This is a quote from a message in my Instagram inbox after doing days of stories focused on eggplant dishes and cooking methods.

    It’s hard to teach anyone to open their minds to trying new things. Ultimately, it’s one’s own will that stands in the way. But if you’re a disliker of eggplant, luckily for you, there’s no better time to try them than September. They’re late bloomers and are in season now for almost everyone in the Northern Hemisphere.

    If you hate eggplant, I’d argue that you’ve just had it improperly prepared and you’ve lost the desire to try it since. As someone who has always loved eggplant, I know the pain of a poorly prepared one. I’ve had eggplant fried at too low a temperature, resulting in the saddest wet dog of a dish I’ve ever consumed. It’s the worst. But I’ve also had soggy, underfried french fries, and for some reason, poorly prepared potatoes are easier to eat. My point is, cultivating a taste for eggplant is something worthwhile. It just might take a few creative tries.

    To begin our journey to rediscover eggplant, I thought I’d talk to Jean Nihoul, an associate curator at the Museum of Food and Drink, to get some background on the fruit.

    Yes, it’s a fruit, from the nightshade family, much like the tomato. The eggplant was considered inedible by Europeans until the 15th century.

    “As I’m sure you know, there are many colors and sizes of eggplant,” he said. “The original and most prominent variety to arrive in America from Europe (previously from Southeast Asia) was white skinned and bulbous, hence the name eggplant.”

    But the United States is the only place to call it that. Other English-speaking societies call it aubergine.

    For most Americans, their intro to eggplant comes in the form of eggplant parm. It’s a winning combination, and in Italy it’s known simply as Parmigiana. Nothing is more comforting than the flavors of garlicky tomato sauce sandwiched between deep-fried breaded eggplant and the sight of Parmigiano and ricotta oozing out of every gap in the stacks.

    But for some reason, here in the States, as we do so often, we’ve applied that winning combo to other main events such as veal, chicken and even fish. The sad thing about Parmigian-ing other items is that eggplant fell to the bottom of our list of most desirable Parmigianas. I still think it’s the best, and I’d like to you layer slices of air-fried eggplant (see the recipe below), simple tomato sauce and pecorino, Parmigiano, mozzarella and ricotta or any combination of those cheeses. When the plate’s empty, tell me you’re still not a fan, and I’ll relent.

    For those who are turned off by eggplant’s supposed bitterness, caponata is the dish for you. It’s a Southern Italian side dish in which sweet and sour come together, stretching your mind’s perception of what good flavors can be. It looks like a stew, but I like it at room temp, so I think of it more as a salad. This prominent agrodolce (from the Italian words for “sour” and “sweet,” pronounced AG-row DOL-chay) zing is as perfect for a summer night of 90 degrees with near 100 percent humidity (hey, New York!) as it is on a cool late fall evening. Below I’ve written a new steamed version that’s totally untraditional but captures the agrodolce essence and is mostly raw.

    If pasta is your jam, Norma is your ticket to ride. The story goes like this: Sicilian-born Vincenzo Bellini’s masterpiece opera of that name was written in 1831 and performed all over the world. His fellow Sicilians were so proud that it was receiving rave reviews that “Norma” became a word to describe any and all things that were amazing. Almost a century later, an out-of-town comedian who had studied up on the local slang tried a pasta dish layered with fried eggplant for the first time and exclaimed, “It’s a Norma!” The name has stuck ever since. When prepared in the traditional Sicilian manner, long slices of deep-fried eggplant adorn a plate topped with rigatoni (or any large tube pasta — paccheri, calamarata, etc.) drenched in fresh tomato sauce and topped with salted ricotta cheese. I find this entry into eating eggplant a good one because the ingredients and flavors aren’t fully homogenized. You’re able to decide the ratio of the familiar to unknown with each forkful.

    Now, I tend to write Italian-inspired recipes because it’s part of my heritage and the style of cooking is simple. But eggplant, having circumnavigated the world, exists in many delicious forms that should all be sampled.

    Imam bayildi is an onion-stuffed, olive-oil-cooked eggplant that’s extremely popular in the Arab world. Japan has a skinny variety that is often broiled with sweet miso. Sometimes my favorite halal food cart vendor adds pieces of fried eggplant to my lamb over rice, and it’s exquisite.

    Now that you know a fair amount about eggplant, I hope your taste and curiosity for it expand. For those of you who already love this veggie, I hope your curiosity has been piqued to try it prepared in new ways.

    Sweet and Crunchy Maple Orange Roasted Eggplant

    Courtesy of Running To The Kitchen

    Even supposed eggplant haters won't be able to take issue with this flavor bomb of a dish. It's at once sweet, tangy, herby, and crunchy, thanks to a smart combination of orange juice and maple syrup for maximum caramelization.

    Get the recipe from Running to the Kitchen.