Picking Eggplants

Even though the ingredients make it a summer dish, I’ve been craving the rich, stewy, deliciousness of some ratatouille lately, and decided to make it the other night. (Recipe to come, and believe me, you won’t want to miss it!) Eggplant isn’t exactly in season at the moment, but it’s readily available at the grocery store year-round. And I am nuts about it. I love its meaty yet light texture, and the hint of bitterness that makes your lips itch. Roasted with olive oil, grilled in a sandwich, fried in eggplant parmesan, or pureed in baba ganoush – it doesn’t matter. I love it all.

Especially when not in prime season, picking the perfect eggplant is particularly important. If you end up with a bad one, it can be bitter, and the flesh can soak up liquids  yielding a soggy mess.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Look for deep, dark purple skin that is tight and shiny.
  • A green stem indicates freshness, it will brown as it ages.
  • Pick an eggplant that feels heavier than it looks – heavier means more moisture, which equals a fresher piece of fruit. It also can mean less seeds and more flesh.

There’s one more thing – and this is up for debate – but I’ve always had luck when abiding by it. A lot of people say that there are male and female eggplants, and the females have more seeds. Since an eggplant’s bitterness comes from the seeds, no matter what the gender, the fewer seeds the better. So look for the boys.

How does one, huh hmm (clears throat), sex an eggplant? Well if you look at the end opposite the stem, there’s a belly button looking notch. If it’s a female eggplant, it will be oval shaped and a bit larger. If it’s a male eggplant, it will be a small, circular notch. If you take a peek at the picture above, the eggplant at the top right is a female, and the one next to it in the middle of the top row is a male.

So take that for what it’s worth. My boy Alton taught me that trick, and it’s never let me down!

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