Even though eggplant can be grown in Louisiana, it doesn’t seem to be a popular vegetable here in Northeast Louisiana. Most people are familiar with the purple skin variety, but did you know that eggplant can range in color from dark to light purple, green, yellow, black, or white? Some varieties can even be striped in color. Eggplant also varies in size and shape. Some are pear-shaped or round. Size range can go from that of a golfball to that of a football.
Eggplant is a good source of fiber and is high in Vitamins B and K. Eggplant is also a great source of antioxidants, which will help keep your body working at its best and may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, and some cancers. Other nutrients found in eggplant include manganese, potassium, vitamin C, and folate. Eggplants are fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, and low in calories.
To find a ready-to-eat eggplant at the local grocery store or farmer’s market, try the following tips. Eggplant skin should be smooth, shiny, and vivid in color. It should spring back when gently pressed with the pad of the thumb. Look for the stem and cap to be bright green in color. Choose eggplants that are heavy for their size with no cracks or discolorations. Smaller, slender eggplants usually have smaller seeds and will be tender. Avoid those that are shriveled.
Be careful when storing eggplant since it is sensitive to heat and cold. For best results, eggplant should be stored between 46- and 55-degrees Fahrenheit. Uncut and unwashed eggplant should be placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer to maintain crispness and freshness. Plan to use eggplant within 5 to 7 days. Once the inner flesh is exposed, eggplant will perish quickly.
Wash eggplant just before cooking and cut off the cap and stem. Eggplant can be cooked with or without its skin. “Sweating” eggplants by salting them will tenderize the texture and lessen the bitter taste of the flesh. To do this, slice the eggplant to desired size and sprinkle with salt before laying it out for 30 minutes to pull out the water content. Rinse to remove salt. It is best to use a stainless-steel knife to avoid the flesh turning black when cutting. Always wash eggplant before cutting ends and slicing.
Eggplant is very versatile and can be prepared in many ways. They are often used as a meat substitute. Eggplant is commonly stuffed, fried, or cooked as a casserole, but can also be steamed, roasted, boiled, sautéed, stewed, or baked. How you choose to enjoy eggplant is up to you, but I hope you will give it a try if you haven’t before!
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture