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The Eggplant aka Aubergine is actually a fruit, a berry to be exact.
Besides having a botanical identity crisis, they are also one of the fussiest produce in terms of harvest, handling and storage. Eggplants are quite low in calories but high in fibre which is great to fill you up with the many versatile ways to cook them! Keep reading to find out how to select the freshest eggplants, how to tell cosmetic bruising from spoilage and how to cook imperfect eggplants.
Eggplants are usually harvested as soon as they are ripe otherwise they may get bitter or mooshy on the inside. In order to choose the freshest eggplant, choose as you would many other fruits by picking ones that are firm and plump. One way to test whether an eggplant is ripe is to press in with your finger and the flesh should bounce back a little. You should choose eggplants that feel heavy, as hollow ones tend to indicate brushing or spotting of the fruit.
Smaller, asian eggplant varieties tend to bruise less than the large ones. The freshest eggplants should have a smooth and glossy exterior with no wrinkling. Skin wrinkles, just like us, are signs of aging; and like us, aged eggplants are more bitter to the taste.
Eggplants are very delicate fruits, which means rough handling of them cause them to bruise quite easily. Once an eggplant is bruised, the oxygen penetrates its juices and causes damaged areas to go brown. However, most of the eggplant remains usable. if it is too bitter, just cut out the bruised/browed flesh. Once cut, the eggplant will also continue to brown like an apple so make sure you don’t leave it too long before you use them or give them a lemon juice treatment to keep them from going brown.
Bruising is basically physical damage to the skin, allowing air, yeasts, mold and bacteria to enter. The best way to evaluate the health of your eggplant is to cut it open. Discard your eggplant if there is any visible mold inside the flesh. If the rotted area is only small and distinct, you can cut it away and cook the rest of flesh if they are still firm and pale.
To be used in 1-2 days: Room temperature
To be used 3-4 days: refridgerate
We don’t recommend keeping your eggplants for too long as chilling them can cause the flesh to darken and deteriorate.
Choose only unblemished eggplants when you’re cooking dishes requiring cooking them whole and unpeeled, or in perfect round slices. Select soft-spotted eggplant for dishes that demand more careful processing. Finally, throw away eggplants that seem to have mold on the skin or flesh, emit a foul smell and are heavily spotted and tough on the inside.
What is the order in which you should cook your eggplants to maximise their kitchen shelf life? For dishes that require eggplants to be cooked whole and unpeeled, or in perfect round slices use unblemished eggplants. For dishes that demand more careful processing, use soft-spotted eggplants.
Salvage your spotties! There are many ways to cook partial eggplants that have been cut away from bruised/rotted areas. Remember to brush them with lemon juice to prevent further browning. Another tip is to scoop out the browned seedy bits and sprinkle with salt or soak in salted water- this will extract the bitter taste from browned areas. Some of our favourite recipes for partial eggplant pieces are grilled eggplant slices, breaded for eggplant parmigiana, used in mixed dishes and dips.
Happy eggplant cooking!