Eggplant is one of those obscure veggies (although it’s technically a fruit) that you may not find yourself using too often.
Sure, you love a good, fresh eggplant parmesan, but what else can you do with it?
You may have seen white eggplant or even orange eggplants and wondered if this exotic veg from the nightshade family is having an identity crisis or what.
Every now and then we find ourselves venturing out of our culinary comfort zones and trying new recipes that call for ingredients we don’t have much experience with… like eggplant.
Is that you? Or are you an eggplant veteran?
If you’ve found yourself with larger eggplants from the grocery store or a lovely dark-skinned whole eggplant gifted from a neighbor’s garden, we have everything you need to know.
If you’ve never dealt with eggplant flesh before, you’ll want to make sure they’re still good eggplants when you’re ready to use it. You’ll want to know the common traits of bad eggplant.
Rotten eggplant is no bueno.
Here’s the best way to know how to know if eggplant is bad:
- It’s soft and/or squishy.
- The skin has lost its luster and/or appears shriveled.
- The fleshy inside is slimy and/or brown color, including the black seeds.
- There are rotting spots or soft spots on or in it.
- It stinks or has a rotten smell.
If any of these tell-tale signs apply to your raw eggplants, toss. Trust me, you won’t want to eat it.
What does a ripe eggplant look like?
Ripe eggplants are probably one of the prettiest, most visually appealing fruits in the produce section, with taut skin.
When fresh and ripe, an eggplant will be a shiny deep purple color and maintain its textbook oval-ish shape. It will be firm and taut to the touch, not soft or shriveled.
The flesh of a cut eggplant will be mostly whitish with a slight green tint, and the eggplant seeds will be visible darker flecks throughout the fruit.
If you cut open the fruit and ask yourself, “is ripe eggplant brown inside?” you’re better off not to eat it. If the flesh is brown, it’s crossed into overripe territory.
Raw eggplant doesn’t really have a smell, so if your nostrils pick up something a little funky, leave that eggplant where it lay.
That’s what we call a bad eggplant.
How long do eggplants last
In addition to selecting the best eggplant, you’ll also want to know how long it will stay nice and ripe.
When kept at room temperature and preferably out of direct sunlight, an eggplant will stay good anywhere from three to five days.
However, as is the case with almost all fruits and vegetables, fresh is best.
The fresher your produce is when used or eaten, the better it will cook up and the better it will taste.
You don’t have to peel an eggplant before you eat it, but the larger eggplants may have tougher skin.
How long does eggplant last in the fridge
While eggplant does not technically need to be kept in the refrigerator, storing it in the crisper section of your refrigerator is an option.
If you’re going to store it in the fridge, however, you should transfer it to a reusable container or a perforated bag first.
Best not to keep eggplant in a sealed plastic bag, like the produce bag you purchased it in, will create moisture and cause an eggplant go bad even sooner.
If you’re storing your eggplant in the fridge, you can expect it to last a bit longer. When kept properly in the refrigerator, eggplant will last up to a week.
If you’re thinking of cutting up your eggplant before fridge-storing it, think again. Eggplant, much like avocados and apples, starts to do that enzymatic browning shortly after it is cut open.
Eggplant slices require a lemon juice bath or dipped in olive oil to keep from getting brown, like potatoes or apples.
While it’s okay to eat for a few hours after it’s cut, the longer the flesh is exposed and browning, the quicker it deteriorates.
It’s best to leave your eggplant whole and cut it only when you’re ready to use it.
How to store eggplant
Eggplant likes to be kept at room temperature or in a cool, dry place like a temperature controlled pantry.
You can store your eggplant in a dry paper bag, in a basket, or on a plate as well. You should not seal your eggplant in a plastic bag or container that is fully closed.
You’ll also want to make sure you give your eggplant its own space.
Storing it near other fruits like bananas can cause it to go from ripe to overripe eggplant to spoiled eggplant in a matter of hours due to a gas called ethylene produced by some fruits and veggies.
If you’re looking to store eggplant for a long time, you can freeze it and keep it for up to a year.
To freeze-store whole or sliced eggplant, wash, blanch in boiling water then douse in cold water, and dry it and place it in a vacuum sealed bag.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can use a freezer bag, just try to eliminate as much air as possible before sealing and storing it.
Eggplant can also be pickled, dehydrated, and of course cooked into a dish that can be stored.
How to pick out eggplants
The best and easiest way to pick your eggplants is to use your sense of sight, touch, and smell.
Scour the eggplants on the produce stand and choose one that is a deep but vibrant purple, shiny, and not wrinkled at all. The eggplant’s skin will appear taut.
If you can see the eggplant turn brown or yellow, shriveled, or if the skin of the eggplant looks dull or otherwise old, it’s best to pass it over.
You should next feel the eggplant with your fingers to check for firmness. The eggplant should be firm enough that you are not able to push it in at all, there should be no give. If there is, or worse, if your finger goes through the eggplant skin, leave it.
Again, raw eggplant doesn’t really have a smell, so if you do happen to catch a strong vegetal whiff, something’s not quite right.
How to use eggplant
You may not realize it, but eggplant can be used pretty much just like any other fruit or vegetable.
Eggplant can be the star or the show, or just a supporting actress, and you can keep your eggplant dishes simple and basic, or get as creative as you want.
You can saute, roast, or grill eggplant, by itself or as part of a stir fry or medley.
You can use eggplant as a replacement for a meat or carb in a vegetarian or keto meal (i.e. eggplant parmesan or eggplant pizza).
You can bread an entire eggplant and bake or fry it.
You can use eggplant in pastas or cook and blend old eggplants into a curry base. Eggplant can even replace the pasta for a low-carb version, like eggplant lasagna.
You can do a fun kabob with Japanese eggplant or even an eggplant bruschetta.
Eggplant possibilities are pretty much endless with a little inspiration. One of our favorite eggplant recipes is this Betty Crocker Stuffed Eggplant.
The bottom line
You’ve now graduated from Eggplant 101.
As long as you pick a firm and beautiful, perfect eggplant of the best quality, keeping an eye on the eggplant’s skin, use it within a few days, and choose a delicious recipe, you really can’t go wrong.
Here’s more fun foodie stuff if you’re wanting to know what the freshest eggplants taste like.