Many people pass over eggplants in the grocery store because they don't know what to do with them, but they're actually extremely versatile. They take to many different cooking methods, including baking, sauteing, roasting and even blending in dips and spreads.
How to Find the Best Eggplant
Learn how to pick a good eggplant with these nine tips.
1. Shiny Skin
To find the best-tasting eggplant, look for one with shiny, smooth, taut skin. An eggplant's skin can give you a clue as to when it was picked. For example, older eggplants are more wrinkled, so the newer, the better.
The next thing to check is ripeness; simply press your finger to the eggplant to see how firm it is. Similar to avocados, a ripe eggplant should have some give when lightly squeezed—anything too soft means you should probably keep searching.
3. Preferred Taste
Everyone has preferred flavors for their food. You may love sweets, while your best friend may prefer something more savory. With eggplant, you'll want to keep your preferred taste in mind. If you have a fondness for bitter food, you may want to buy a larger eggplant because they tend to have more seeds, which often taste bitter. More than likely, though, you'll want to purchase a small or medium-sized eggplant for a sweeter flavor.
An ideal eggplant should feel hefty in your hand. Even a smaller eggplant should have an appropriate weight to it when you hold it. Eggplants are made up of a lot of water, so a lightweight eggplant can indicate that it has lost water weight, making the cooked eggplant less tender than its heavier counterparts. Weight is also a sign of how recently the eggplant was harvested.
5. Green Stem
The stem of your eggplant should be green rather than brown, cracked or dried. Even on green stems, make sure there's no sign of mold or other decay because this could infiltrate your eggplant, giving you a not-so-nice surprise when you cut into it.
6. Harvesting Season
Consider the season you're in when purchasing an eggplant. Eggplant may be just fine year-round, but to find the best ones possible, try to purchase them during their season's peak, which is usually from July to October.
You may have a green, springy stem and bright, shiny skin on your eggplant, but if there are blemishes, it may all be for nothing. Avoid eggplants that have cuts, bruises or discoloration because these may indicate internal rot.
8. Exterior Color
You probably know eggplants for their beautiful purple color, but what you may not know is that eggplants can actually vary widely in color, from orange to white and more.
No matter which variety you choose, the best eggplants are going to be bright and uniform in color. This means that a purple eggplant should be all purple, a striped eggplant should be all striped, and a yellow eggplant should be all yellow. Avoid green spots, as this indicates that the eggplant is somewhat unripe, which can make for an unpleasant baba ganoush or eggplant parmesan.
9. Interior Color
An eggplant's interior color is almost as important as its exterior. It's completely normal to have a little bit of brown around the seeds, but avoid eggplants with an interior flesh that has more brown than white. You don't want to cook up a bitter and spoiled eggplant dish, do you?
With the right eggplant from your garden or grocery store, you can make a variety of tasty dishes that your family, friends and neighbors will love, so keep these tips in mind when you're on the search for the perfect specimen.
3 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 drops liquid stevia
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 tbsp canola oil
4 medium eggplants, quartered lengthwise
4 sprigs cilantro
Yields 4 servings
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.