Varieties we grow and love:
I love eggplant and the Farmer accommodates my enthusiasm by growing many varieties. Eggplants come in many shapes, colors and sizes! Everyone can readily identify the common dark purple-almost black, Italian variety carried in every store, but there are so many more and, yes, they can be strikingly different or have merely the subtlest nuance.
I assume because the large, dark eggplant is so common, most people think that not only is that the “original” eggplant but that their origin is Italy. Not so. As far as we eggplant aficionados know, eggplants origins are Oriental and did not make it to Europe until the 13th Century. mainly white (though there were other colors) and the size of a large egg. When they were brought to North America, it was as an ornamental plant and not for the dinner table…it’s funny because when tomatoes were introduced, there was a lot of suspicion about consuming them – nightshades had a bad wrap, I guess 😉 Funny, no one was worried about tobacco (also in the nightshade family)!
All eggplant seem to get erroneously labeled Italian if they are large and rounded or Asian (really Oriental is more accurate) if they are long and skinny…there’s no official way to categorize eggplants, so I am just going to list where it is most commonly known to be from. One thing I have found talking to customers about varieties of vegetables, is if it is really good, every nationality owns it 🙂
- Classic – Italian-American, yes, looks just like the ones you see in the store. Dark purple, pear or large egg shaped. Great for any purpose
- Rosa Bianca – European/Spanish/French West Indies yet it is always identified as Italian (so it must be good) medium purple to lavender pink, often with white on one side, round, medium size, creamy flesh that tends to stay whiter when cooked than the Classic
- Listata di Gandia and Zebra – Spanish, magenta and white striped, thin skin, creamy white interior, also tends not to brown as much during cooking.
- Clara or Tango- common in SE Asia, but again labeled Italian most everywhere, pearly white skin, dense flesh that holds up really well when baked or broiled.
- Applegreen – New Hampshire! OK for the most part green eggplant varieties hail from the Orient. Bright green skin, small to medium round fruits, sweet flesh, great for everything
- Round Mauve- Italian heirloom variety, round dense, dark mauve-purple and white skin, I love these baked, but would be great stuffed too. Even when large, they still have a small seed cavity
- Neon- Bright magenta skin, creamy texture flesh
- Bride- Chinese, long and slender with pale lavender, tender skin, mild creamy flesh
- Little Fingers- Asian, long skinny fruits, dark purple, tender skins, creamy flesh, fast cooking
- Orient Express – Japanese, looks a lot like Little Fingers but is longer and has a dark purple calyx (not green), dark purple, tender skins and tender white flesh
- Machiaw- Oriental- very long and very skinny bright magenta fruits, amazingly silky texture, especially delicious grilled
- Oriental Charm- florescent to pastel pink skin, long and slender fruits, tender skin, mild
- Thai Egg- Thailand/SE Asia, small eggs usually we have a stripey green variety, but sometimes we have other colors like white or magenta. Classic for Thai curry dishes
- Red Ruffles or Hmong Red – Chinese/Vietnamese, bright red, small round fruits, quite bitter, though I have had people tell me if they are picked before they turn red, they are not so bitter. I have made a stew from an African cookbook that called for them and it was pretty tasty.
- Striped Toga – adorable clusters of green-striped, orange fruits; strong flavor. A lot of people use them for decoration 😉
As always, fresh produce is most delicious and nutritious when consumed as close to the harvest date as possible.
Eggplant does not store particularly well, but our will hold up just fine for several days on your counter, away from heat (like the sun beating on it through a window). If you had to, you could wrap it and keep in the warmest part of your fridge for the week.
– can be enjoyed in:
- yep, eggplant Parma
- baba ganoush
Tips for preparing:
Rinse and remove the stem and calyx (cap). Fresh eggplants, and it may be the varieties we grow, does not HAVE to be peeled. Peeling may be more desired if you are making puree, so definitely consider what you are using it for. I typically do not peel mine, but if you do, be aware that the flesh will discolor quickly, which is normal and nothing to worry about.
Everyone likes to talk about “salting” eggplants. I seldom do. There is no bitterness, and salting really only draws out moisture, nothing more. HOWEVER, if you are frying eggplant, it will hold up better and absorb less grease, so salt away.
If salting is new to you, toss your prepared eggplant with salt in a colander, find something to do for an hour, rinse under cold water and allow to drain. Depending what you are doing with it, you may want to pat it dry with toweling.
Also check out these great recipes: