Eggplant. You've had it, but what are its origins and what varieties are out there? I thought I'd share some of my research with you so that you too can appreciate this vegetable highlighted in my last blog post.
Eggplant originated in Asia - either in India or Burma (Myanmar). Most foodies may be surprised because it pops up in so many Italian, Spanish, and Turkish recipes. It is also widely used in Indian cooking in many forms - including the baby eggplant pictured above.
Eggplant is a part of the nightshade family along with tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Vegetables in this category contain an alkaloid called solanine which can be toxic in high doses. Some find that eating nightshade vegetables upsets their stomach or inhibits weight loss. Something to ask your doctor about! Generally, moderate amounts of these veggies is fine.
Eggplants come in many varieties. Most have eaten the large, purple variety. eggplant; purple, shiny, and fleshy. But, there is so much more to experience! Japanese eggplant is long and slender. I used to ride my bike to the farmer's market in Manoa Valley on Oahu in Hawaii when I was a grad student to pick up huge bags of locally grown Japanese eggplant just for a dollar or two. If you've eaten a good Thai curry, then you've had the green tiny eggplant. This Thai eggplant is usually light green and hard with a seedy interior. Baby eggplant - a tiny version of the larger purple variety is used extensively in Indian cooking. We love to make 2 slits in it, keep the stems intact, and fill it with spicy delicious pastes. You can find my recipe and a video on how to make one version here. While there is more and more baby eggplant showing up in mainstream markets, it's easiest to find in Indian grocery stores. My favorite place to shop for produce in Chicago is at Fresh Farms International Market at 2626 W. Devon Ave.
Eat your eggplant within a few days of purchasing for the best flavor and store them at room temperature. Do not put them in the refrigerator. Eggplants do not like cold temperature and can brown and change slightly in flavor in the fridge.
For more information, check out one of my favorite produce references: The Produce Bibleby Leanne Kitchen. It is packed with amazing information and recipes.