The Different Varieties of Eggplant
Eggplants originated in India, but are grown and consumed around the world today. Commonly referred to as a vegetable because of the way they are cooked and eaten, the eggplant is actually a fruit, and more specifically a berry. In America, the most popular type is the purple eggplant, but other varieties are starting to make their way into the markets. While most varieties can be used in any recipe calling for eggplant, they vary greatly in size, shape and color.
The purple eggplant has dark purple skin and white flesh, is pear-shaped, and is generally around 4-1/2 to 9 inches long by 2 to 4 inches wide. It is the image that comes to mind for most Americans when they think of the fruit. However, Asian or Chinese eggplants can be as tiny as two inches long, thin and narrow, or look like a cluster of grapes. Their skin can be dark purple, light purple, green, orange, cream or white. The flesh is yellowish-white and spongy, and the edible seeds are small and brown. Italian eggplants, or baby eggplants, are similar in appearance to the purple eggplant, only smaller and more delicate. The white eggplant is small and egg-shaped, and makes it easy to understand where the fruit got its name.
While most eggplants are solid in color, others are striped or striated. Some have a color gradient, gradually turning from white near the stem to bright pink to deep purple or black. The layer of skin ranges in thickness from quite thick on some varieties to very thin on others, and although the thinner skins can be eaten, the thicker ones are often tough and should be removed. The flesh is generally sweeter in the smaller fruit and more bitter in larger fruit, requiring an application of salt to remove the bitter taste before cooking.
Since India and Asia have such an abundant choice of eggplants to choose from, it is no wonder they are a staple in so many people's diets in those regions. As the selection of eggplants being made available in grocery stores and farmers' markets in America keeps growing, cooking with eggplant should become more popular here as well. With all the new varieties being introduced, choosing eggplant for dinner can be a new and exciting event. Although it is safe and easy to pick the familiar purple eggplant, trying a different variety can be a fun experience.
Eggplant is delicious and nutritious. Check out our growing collection of eggplant recipes representing the best the culinary world has to offer. Find the perfect eggplant dish for everyday dining or special occasions.
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