What’s in Season – Eggplant
Whether marinated, stuffed, roasted, grilled, fried, in a casserole, in stews, or on brochettes, this late-summer favourite can be enjoyed in an array of international recipes this season.
The eggplant has been cultivated in India for at least 4,000 years, although it is often thought of as a Mediterranean or middle-Eastern vegetable. Credit for introducing it to North America goes to Thomas Jefferson, who imported seeds from his garden in Europe some 200 years ago.
Choose eggplants that feel plump and heavy for their size, with a dark purple glossy skin. They should be free of scars or soft spots, with a fresh green cap. Don’t go for the huge ones because these may be less meaty, have more seeds and taste somewhat more bitter. Look for an oval dimple on the plump end; a round-shaped dimple tends to signal a seedier fruit with less meat.
Varieties Available in Ontario
Jersey King, Classic and High Bush Select are bell-shaped varieties; Mirabel, Vernal and Mini Fingers are long and slim; Murina, Black Beauty and Italian Pink Bicolor are rounded Sicilian types.
Eggplant should be used quickly but can be stored in the refrigerator covered in plastic for up to five days. With time, the bitterness intensifies and soft brown spots will develop.
Tip: Some chefs recommend lightly salting sliced eggplant and letting it stand for 15 minutes before rinsing, drying and cooking to reduce characteristic bitterness.
Nutrition 101: A 100 g serving (250 mL/one cup) of eggplant contains 24 calories, is fat-free, sodium-free and a source of dietary fibre (3.4 g) and folacin (7% Recommended Daily Intake). Eggplant contains nasuin, a potent antioxidant that is believed to block the formation of cell-damaging free radicals that can cause heart disease.
Autumn grilling becomes simple gourmet with these flavourful and charming Ontario lamb eggplant rolls that can be served as a starter or a main course.