Did you know that eggplant is actually a fruit? This delicious plant from the nightshade family has a savory flavor with some sweet and bitter notes. The bitterness comes from the alkaloids in the peel and seeds. The flesh of eggplant is a mesh of tiny air pockets, which makes it a great vesicle to absorb oils and liquids. Because of this spongy quality, eggplant makes great purees and sauces (Baba Ganoush, anyone?).
From a nutritional standpoint, the eggplant is a star! It is a low-calorie fruit coming in with only 35 calories per cup. Eggplants are rich in phytonutrient composition, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. The lovely purple hue comes from the flavonoid nasunin, which may help improve brain health by reducing brain inflammation and improving blood flow.
In the store, eggplants are available year-round, but their peak season is in August and September. Eggplants can be stored at room temperature and should be used before there is wrinkling. Things to look for when selecting an eggplant include choosing one with a firm green cap, a lot of peel color, and one that does not leave an indentation when slightly pressed. Because this fruit does contain a fair bit of water, you can expect a 20 percent reduction in size after cooking and trimming of the stem.
Ready to whip up something with this pretty purple produce? Next week I will share an eggplant bacon recipe!