Selecting and Preparing Eggplant

Eggplant is a versatile fruit that is cooked and served like a vegetable. It absorbs oils and liquids and can conform to the flavor of complimentary ingredients and spices. Although the peak season for eggplant is August and September, it can be found all year-long. To get the best taste and results when cooking with eggplant, it is essential to pick the fruit when it is ripe and prepare it with care.

While there are several varieties of eggplant, the most commonly found type in grocery stores is the purple eggplant, named after its dark purple skin. It is similar in shape to an overgrown pear, and can range in size from 4-1/2 to 9 inches long by 2 to 4 inches wide. Its skin should be evenly colored and smooth, and the fruit should feel heavy and firm. Pressing the side gently should leave a slightly visible imprint, indicating that it is ripe and ready to use. Wrinkled skin, brown or soft spots, or a dull sheen are all indications that the fruit is beyond its prime and should be avoided.

While selecting the best eggplant is one of the keys to a successful dish, another important consideration is the preparation of the fruit. Eggplant holds moisture, which can cause it to burn easily. To reduce the moisture content, slice the fruit, sprinkle with salt, and place under a heavy pot or bowl of water. This will not only reduce the moisture, but will also release any bitterness the fruit might have, which increases as it ages. Eggplants also oxidize quickly, so it is a good practice to cut it just before use. If that is not possible, spraying a thin coat of lemon juice on the slices can prevent them from discoloring. Whole eggplants can be stored loosely wrapped in the refrigerator up to a week, although it is best to use them within a day or two. Frozen eggplant can last from six to eight months and should be blanched or steamed prior to freezing.

Eggplant can be baked, broiled, grilled or fried, and can be used as an appetizer, side dish or main entrée. Choosing the right eggplant and following the proper techniques for preparation will help turn any recipe into a wonderful dish. The year-round availability of eggplant and its versatile nature make it a great selection for a family meal or for entertaining guests.

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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