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Eggplant

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Preview of Eggplant

Available

August 15 - October 31

Harvest Period

August 15 - September 30

Native to India and Sri Lanka, eggplant is a member of the nightshade family that also includes tomatoes and potatoes.  It is a relative newcomer to the western world, making its first appearance in Europe in the 15th Century.  Although known in Britain as aubergine (after its French name), it became known in North America as eggplant because of some small, ivory coloured varieties that resembled chicken eggs.

What to Look for

Look for firm, smooth, shiny fruits that appear heavy for their size and are free of wrinkles and dark spots.

Cleaning and Preparation

When using larger eggplant with thick skin, it is generally a good idea to peel some or all of the skin. To remove some of their inherent bitterness, generously sprinkle salt over eggplant, place in a colander for an hour and then rinse completely. Salting draws out the water soluble, bitter compounds, but also causes air pockets in the eggplant's spongy flesh to collapse, preventing excess oil absorption when frying or grilling.

Thinner-skinned Chinese and Japanese varieties can be diced, sliced, or stuffed without the need for salting.

Storage

Since eggplant is harvested fresh, it should be used as soon as possible after purchase. It will, however, keep for 3 days unwrapped in the refrigerator crisper.

To freeze eggplant, first peel and cut into 1/3” slices.  To preserve the natural colour, soak for 5 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon salt per litre of water.  Steam for 2 minutes, plunge into cold water and drain. Package in layers, separated by plastic wrap or parchment paper, and freeze.

Nutritional Information

Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fibre, folate, potassium and manganese.  It is also a good source of vitamins B6, C and K.

One cup (82g) of raw, cubed eggplant provides 20 calories, 0g fat, 5g carbohydrate, 3g dietary fibre, and 1g protein.

How to Use

Eggplant holds an esteemed place in many Mediterranean cuisines—caponata from Italy, ratatouille from Provence, moussaka from Greece, baba ghanouj from all over the Middle East, and curries in India. Eggplant is delicious hot or cold and can be enjoyed marinated, stuffed, roasted, grilled, fried, in casseroles or stews. Complementary spices include allspice, basil, bay leaves, garlic, chile powder, oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram, and parsley. It also pairs well with tomatoes and onions.

Varieties

The most common varieties grown in Canada are the long, oval purple eggplants such as Jersey King, Classic, and High Bush Select.  A much wider variety of shapes and colours is available in India and elsewhere in Asia, although they are becoming more available here in large grocery stores and specialty markets.  Mirabel, Vernal and Mini Fingers are long, slim eggplant while Murina, Black Beauty and Italian Pink Bicolour are popular Sicilian types.