Eggplant is not a vegetable that most Mainers think of as a common garden vegetable. But eggplant is a versatile vegetable, and making room for it in the garden is becoming more and more common.
This attractive, deep rich purple vegetable capped with gray-green leaves is available year-round in local markets. The Maine crop can be purchased at farmers' markets or roadside stands in late July to early October.
The bulbous part, the fruit, can vary in shape from round to finger-shaped. The fruit is the edible part. Eggplant is popular in Asian and Middle Eastern cookery, as well as in many Mediterranean dishes.
Eggplant Nutrition Information
Like most vegetables, eggplant is naturally low in calories and has no fat. It is a fair source of potassium, iron and protein. A cup has only 38 calories (without added fat). A main benefit of eggplant is its high fiber content.
Choose eggplant with a bright, purple color. If you select a newer variety, you may find eggplants that are pink, striped or even white. For best quality, look for eggplants that are firm, heavy for size, and free of scars. The skin will be glossy, and the flesh will be firm. Smaller, slender selections usually have smaller seeds and are more tender. Avoid eggplant with brown or blue streaks, or that are shriveled and flabby. Some people like to use larger eggplant in dishes calling for sliced or peeled eggplant.
The ideal storage temperature is between 46 degrees and 55 degrees. Storing below 46 degrees will damage them. Store, unwashed, in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Do not force or squeeze them in. Excess pressure on the delicate skin will cause bruises and decay. Premium quality fresh eggplant will last for about a week in the refrigerator. They can be stored for a short time at room temperature.
Eggplant can be cooked by baking it in its skin, boiling in water, frying, sauteing, steaming or stewing. The vegetable can be served stuffed, and used as a meat extender. The varieties of ways in which it can be prepared make it a favorite choice of people who limit meat in their diet. It is said that eggplant absorbs fat faster than other vegetables, so limit the amount of fat you add to recipes.
Bake eggplant whole in a 400 degree oven. Pierce the skin, as you would a potato, before putting it in the oven. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, and then use mashed or pureed to combine with other ingredients or use as an ingredient in spreads or dips.
Bake eggplant halves by slicing the vegetable in half lengthwise. Brush the cut side with oil, season and bake, or scoop some of the pulp and stuff with meat or vegetable stuffing. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes at 425 degrees. Or try broiling or grilling halves that have been sliced lengthwise, lightly oiled and seasoned.
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