Eggplants are available locally from August through October. They are known for their deep purple hue and are members of the nightshade family of vegetables. They grow on vines which can reach several feet in height. Like tomatoes, the eggplant is a fruit. Eggplant has a mild flavor and a spongy texture and is 95% water. There are several varieties but those most common are the traditional bulb shaped Italian eggplant and the long, narrow Japanese eggplant. Tiny Fairy Tale eggplants can be seen at Farmer’s Markets and are purple with white stripes.
Ancient ancestors of the eggplant grew wild in India before the 5th century BC and were eventually introduced throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Europe where it has an esteemed place in their cuisines.
Eggplant has an impressive nutritional profile while being low in calories, fat, and sodium. It is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, K, niacin, folate, manganese, and potassium. It also contains the antioxidant, anthocyanin which is responsible for its vibrant purple color, and polyphenols which may reduce the risk of heart disease and help promote healthy blood glucose levels.
Raw eggplant can have a bitter taste, but becomes tender and develops a rich, complex flavor when cooked. It can be grilled, roasted, baked, stuffed, stewed, or stir fried. Enjoy experimenting with new ways to use this versatile veggie!