What is eggplant? What does eggplant taste like? The first time you saw eggplant at the store, these questions must have gone through your head. Although most people think of this purple, elongated pear-shaped food item as a vegetable, eggplant is actually a fruit. It comes from the nightshade family and grows on vines, like berries.
You can now find eggplant in a number of different colors, but the most commonly found color is deep purple. Once cut open, the fruit is a peachy or cream color.
Here’s what you need to know about eggplant.
What Does Eggplant Taste Like?
This fruit is somewhat bitter if eaten without cooking, but you can also end up buying one that has a very subtle, hard-to-detect flavor. In most circumstances, you’ll find that it’s better to pair the fruit with something more flavorful in order to bring variety to your palette.
When cooked, eggplant tastes creamy but mild. It is often used as a replacement for meat because of its meat-like taste, but its flavor can be altered depending on how you cook it and what you cook it with.
How to Store Eggplant
When fresh, you can keep eggplant in an open container at room temperature. However, store it away from bananas and other fruits that give out ethylene, which makes the fruit go bad. It is smarter to use up the eggplant within a few days of purchase.
If your house is warmer than room temperature, you can also store eggplant in your pantry. Remember, the container should be uncovered. The last resort for storing eggplant is your refrigerator. If you do have to keep it there, make sure you use it within three days, or it will start to become bitter and lose its firmness.
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How to Store Eggplant
There are two ways you can freeze eggplant. You can either make dishes with the eggplant and then freeze them, or you can freeze eggplant slices. Freezing dishes tend to work better and can come in handy when you’re not in the mood to cook as well.
Eggplant that is frozen when raw doesn’t have the same taste as freezing cooked eggplant. If you plan on making dishes that need raw eggplant in the future, consider cutting up the fruit and freezing slices instead. Cut up the fruit into circular slices and bake them for around 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re soft. Next, give the slices some time to cool down and then store them away in freezer bags.
When Is Eggplant in Season?
You can get eggplant at any time of the year, but the main eggplant seasons start from August and go on till October.
How to Pick out an Eggplant
The two main kinds you’ll find are the Italian and the American eggplants. American eggplants generally have a more elongated shape while Italian eggplants are rounder and smaller. To make sure that you pick a healthy, ripe eggplant, make sure that it does not feel soft or tender when you press it with your thumb. It should also have weight, otherwise, it indicates water loss.
Make sure you don’t get an eggplant that has patches of color or a tender spot like a bruise. There should not be any cuts on the outer skin, otherwise, you might cut open the eggplant to find rotten or spoiled flesh.
Tips on Cooking With Eggplant
The diversity of ways eggplant can be eaten means that you can either cook it or be adventurous and eat it raw with the right seasoning.
You can bake, grill or braise and cook it and make it into a pureed dip. Eggplants are mostly used as stuffing or for sautéing.
It is also used as a replacement for chicken, which we have mentioned before. Once it is garnished and cooked with the right ingredients, the difference in the taste is almost unnoticeable. You’ll find that most recipes ask you to remove some of the eggplant’s moisture before proceeding, which can be done by seasoning the flesh with salt and place it on a paper towel.
Another interesting way to eat eggplant is by roasting it whole because its skin is strong enough to resist getting burned or overcooked. Once you take it out, the flavor is a unique combination of sweet and creamy.
The interesting thing about eggplant is its mild taste. It is easily spruced up to suit whatever dishes you want to include it in and works as a wonderful complimentary feature. As long as you know how to cook it and are skilled with your seasoning, you can even make entire dishes with eggplant as the primary ingredient.