Aubergine to some, eggplant to others, no matter what you call it, eggplants are a crucial ingredient all around the world, particularly in Middle Eastern countries and the Mediterranean.
Nowadays, eggplants are available throughout the year, but they are at their peak of flavor in the summer months. So, when is the eggplant season, you might ask?
What Are Eggplants? – A Look Into This Incredible Superfood
Eggplants, also known as brinjal and aubergines, are notable members of the nightshade family. They look stunning with their oblong bodies and glossy, almost jet-black skin. Unfortunately, people initially considered these veggies poisonous, but that is certainly not true.
Instead, eggplants are nutrient-dense and versatile vegetables that come in many colors and shapes. They boast spongy textures and unique earthy flavors that, at times, can taste a bit bitter. Once cooked, though, the taste mellows down and becomes sweet and rich. In addition, it takes on a creamy, soft texture to further increase its palatability.
Believe it or not, even though we can buy eggplants all year round, eggplant season is relatively short and lasts only from July to October. These spongy veggies love fresh air and warmth and hence, ripe perfectly during this period.
To honor the arrival of the eggplant season, let’s look at four interesting facts about eggplants that everyone should know!
Eggplants Are a Fruit?
Did you know that you may have got it wrong all this time? Like its cousin, the tomato, eggplant is also a fruit. Why?
Eggplant is a fruit due to how it grows. Fruits contain seeds and develop from the flower of a plant. Eggplant comes from a single flower and therefore is considered a fruit, or more specifically, a berry.
It only counts as a vegetable when you’re eating it. So, we treat it as a vegetable when cooking in any way: boiling, mashing, roasting, grilling, baking, and frying it to make tasty treats such as moussaka and baba ghanoush.
They Have High Nutritional Value
The countless nutrients in the eggplant offer many health benefits. Let’s break down the biggest boosts.
Whether you eat them cooked or raw, eggplants have a lot of vitamins and minerals. Evidence suggests eggplants contain niacin, magnesium, potassium, folate, copper, phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and many more. These compounds are particularly good for the heart and can help fight bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
Along with these heart-protecting compounds, eggplant is a good source of antioxidants, which fight oxidative stress and can reverse the detrimental effects of free radicals.
Eggplants are also low-calorie and have a lot of fiber, which helps digestion and protects you from gastrointestinal problems such as constipation.
The Varieties Are Endless!
You’re probably used to seeing the large purple eggplants at your local store, but you should visit the farmer’s market to get a taste of all the different varieties. Some are speckled, some are round, some are egg-shaped, and others are as thin and long as parsnips. Each type has a different flavor profile; some are more bitter than others.
Here is a quick glance at a few of our favorites to kick-start your eggplant adventures:
- Indian Eggplant: This variety is squat and small with a deep reddish-purple hue. If not inferred by its name already, it is best used in Indian preparations like stews and curries.
- Fairy Tale Eggplant: This variety is a must if you are looking for a tender eggplant for grilling. The fairy tale eggplant is small in size yet big in flavor and comes with white and purple stripes that are pretty easy to spot on.
- Chinese and Japanese Eggplant: Featuring a long, narrow body and super creamy flesh (also seed-free!), Chinese and Japanese varieties can be hard to differentiate. While it might be noticeable to an untrained eye, the difference lies in their skins. Chinese eggplant tends to have a light, lavender-purple color, while the Japanese ones are usually darker and sometimes even longer. Regardless, both taste equally amazing when stir-fried or grilled.
- White Eggplant: The white eggplant is one of its kind and has pure white skin, giving it its characteristic look. You will find the same flesh inside that you can prepare and enjoy like any standard eggplant.
- Little Green Eggplant: This variety is round and plump, boasting a pale green color and mild flavor. Its extra creamy flesh can amp up your dish.
- Thai Eggplant: Round, tiny, and greenish-white, the Thai eggplant is hard to find, but once you get your hands on it, remember to add it to a Thai curry!
- Italian Eggplant: Resembling a regular globe eggplant, the Italian eggplant is an excellent choice for any preparation, but of course, more for Italian dishes like eggplant parmesan with penne pasta and tomato sauce. It is slightly smaller yet sweet enough, so you don’t have to sweat it.
- Graffiti Eggplant: This variety gets its name from its purple and white stripes that are reminiscent of graffiti art. Also called Sicilian eggplant, the graffiti eggplant is completely multi-purpose and can be used in most recipes that call for eggplants.
Easy-To-Prepare and Versatile
It is no secret that eggplant dishes are easy to prepare. Simply wash and slice this vegetable and toss it in various preparations to add depth through its meaty texture.
You can cook eggplant in many ways. There are plenty of recipes out there for baked eggplant, grilled eggplant, roasted eggplant, and much more. You can simply drizzle it with some olive oil, salt, and garlic and grill it for a standalone dish or use it as a side to pasta, casseroles, soups, and stir-fries. Because, honestly, the culinary possibilities are endless with a vegetable this versatile.
Additionally, this fruit-cum-vegetable adapts well to a variety of cuisines. It is well-liked in Asia and Mediterranean regions and is popular in American and Italian cuisines.
But one thing is for sure. Regardless of the style you choose to cook it, it will always turn out healthy and delicious.
Eggplant stands alone, a vegetable that is not like any other. You can get this plump, glossy, and purple veggie in various shapes and colors and use it for many dishes. From grilled eggplant to roasted eggplant to baked eggplant, there’s really nothing like it when it comes to recipe versatility.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your basket right now and stock up on them before the season ends!
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