How to Buy EggplantToday, eggplants (called aubergine in France) come in all shapes, from small, round fruits (about two inches in diameter) to the popular large oblong Black Beauty variety, which can range up to 12 inches long. A newer variety (called Japanese eggplant) is long and thin, resembling zucchini, and has fewer seeds. (The seeds are edible in all varieties.)
Eggplant colors range from white to lavender to dark purplish-black as well as pale green, yellow, and reddish. There are even some striped varieties. Various eggplant varieties may be used interchangably in most recipes, unless the skin color is a specific visual factor in the dish.
Although available year-round, prime time for eggplant is August and September in the United States. When buying, choose eggplants with smooth, shiny skin, heavy for their size, and having no blemishes, tan patches, or bruises. Wrinkled, loose skin is an indication of age, and the fruit will be more bitter. Smaller eggplants have fewer seeds, thinner skin, and tend to be sweeter, more tender, and less bitter.
Press your finger lightly against the skin. If it leaves a light imprint, it is ripe. If it is too soft, it is too old and will be bitter. Looking for less seeds? Check the blossom end of the fruit. A larger scar generally means fewer seeds.
How to Store EggplantEggplant is quite perishable and will not store long. Depending on the freshness factor of the eggplant at the time of purchase, it may be refrigerated for up to 4 days (up to 7 days if you pick right from the garden). However, it is best to use them as soon as possible, preferably within a day.
Handle eggplants gingerly, as they bruise easily. If you purchase them wrapped in plastic wrap, remove the wrapper, wrap in a paper towel, and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator vegetable bin. Do not store raw eggplant at temperatures less than 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).
Cooked eggplant may be refrigerated up to 3 days (it will get mushy when reheated) or frozen up to 6 months in puree form (add a little lemon juice to discourage discoloration). It holds up fairly well in chunks in soups and stews when thawed in the refrigerator, but not as chunks on its own.
How to Freeze EggplantBring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large container of ice and water to fit the eggplant ready.
For slices: Peel eggplant and slice about 1/3-inch thick. Work quickly or the peeled eggplant will begin to brown. Place slices into boiling water and cover for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the slices to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, thoroughly drain slices and pat dry. Separate slices with plastic wrap, place into freezer bags, squeeze out all the air, and seal tightly.
For chunks: Use the same process as above, except cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. You will not need to separate the chunks with plastic wrap.
More About Eggplant and Eggplant Recipes:• Eggplant Selection and Storage
• Eggplant Cooking Tips and Measures
• Eggplant History
• Eggplant Recipes
Eggplant Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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