What is Eggplant? A brief history
Depending on your region, eggplant can take on different monikers. In most European regions, it is commonly known as aubergine. In India, brinjal. On the other hand, the name eggplant is popular in North America.
It belongs to the solanum melongena plant, a native of numerous Asian regions like India, China and Burma. This plant belongs is part of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. Other plants in this family include tomato and potato.
In India, it used to grow wildly before cultivation took effect. The plant can still be found growing wildly up to date. Due to trade, eggplant became introduced to Europe and Africa by Arab merchants.
Nowadays, cultivation is widespread globally. Among the top producers include China, Italy, Egypt, India, Japan as well as Turkey.
Whereas the purple, elongated eggplant is more prevalent, there are numerous other cultivars.
They vary in shape, size and color. These include: Graffiti, white, Italian, Thai, Chinese as well as Fairy Tale eggplant. These are but a fraction of all available eggplants.
Eggplants may not steal the limelight for being the most nutritious. However, they are great sources of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 as well as manganese.
We all know how vital dietary fiber is for digestion. Fiber promotes bowel movement as it creates bulk in the stool. Moreover, it promotes satiety, making you feel full.
On the other hand, vitamin B6 helps in mood regulation as it promotes serotonin production.
In addition, eggplants are ideal for weight management as they are low-caloric foods. In fact, 1 cup only generates 20 calories.
Apart from this, eggplants have phenolic elements such as anthocyanins. These pigments are responsible for the purple skin in most eggplants. Anthocyanins are lauded for being potent antioxidants.
Besides this, they have anti-viral as well as anti-inflammatory benefits. As such, eggplant consumption is beneficial for combating inflammation related diseases like clogged blood vessels and high blood pressure.
How to cook with eggplant
Eggplant is highly versatile. It also blends well when incorporated in dishes. There are countless eggplant recipes you can experiment with – from baking to pan-frying to roasting to steaming.
Not only this, you can stuff eggplants, bread them for a crispy vegetable treat, mash them to use as a dip, use in salads, prepare the classic eggplant parmesan, toss them in pasta dishes as well as in casseroles.
Eggplants are popular in Italian cuisines, where they are part of the signature ratatouille dish.
How to select eggplants
When buying eggplants:
- Look for ones that are firm to the touch. The skin should be shiny, without bruises.
- The smaller the better – these ones are not only sweeter, they are tender and have fewer seeds.
- In addition, choose denser ones which feel heavy when held. This signifies freshness.
Shelf Life of Eggplant
Due to its spongy texture, eggplant is highly perishable. Here is a breakdown of its estimated shelf life.
How long does fresh eggplant last? (At room temperature)
Fresh eggplant shrivels quickly when left exposed. If you have to leave them on the counter, use within 3 days. Firm ones can last for 5 days.
Shelf life of fresh eggplant (in the fridge)
For a longer shelf life, refrigerate fresh eggplants in the vegetable crisper. Well refrigerated eggplants can last a whopping 3 weeks.
Can you freeze fresh eggplants?
Yes, freezing is ideal for long-term storage. However, you have to blanch prior to freezing. Blanching prevents the flesh from browning due to freezer burns. It also helps to retain the texture, structure and flavor. After blanching, shock them in ice water. Use airtight containers. Well frozen eggplants last up to 1 year.
How long does cooked eggplant last? (In the fridge or freezer)
Cooked eggplant is another perishable item. Refrigerated leftovers only last for 5 days at most. For an extended shelf life, freeze the leftovers. Like blanched frozen ones, they remain in good shape for 1 year.
Shelf life of cut eggplant
Once cut or sliced, eggplants oxidize and turn brown within minutes. As such, use as soon as you have cut them. Alternatively, dip in acid solution like lemon juice. This reserves them for a few hours.
How to preserve eggplant for a longer shelf life
Eggplants lend themselves easy for dehydration. There are several ways you can dry them:
Begin by chopping or slicing before blanching for a minute.
After shocking in ice water, dry using a paper towel before arranging in single layer for drying.
Alternatively, you can just marinate and season them thoroughly before drying, without blanching.
Both methods allow the eggplants to retain flavor and texture. Well dried eggplants are dry, but chewy. Store in airtight containers.
How long does eggplant jerky last?
Dried eggplants keep well at room temperature. Always seal after each use. At room temperature, they last for 1 month.
Pickling is favorable to almost all food items. Due to their absorbent texture, pickling eggplants enhances their taste immensely.
Additionally, pickled aubergines are popular in Italian cuisine, where they are commonly referred to as melanzane sott’aceto.
When pickling eggplants, you can go the traditional way of using a brine solution.
Other variations involve preserving them in olive oil and seasonings.
Store pickled eggplants in sterilized mason jars.
How long do pickled eggplants last? (In the fridge)
Refrigerate opened jars and consume within 10 days. Commercially packaged have a longer shelf life due to added preservatives.
Canning is similar to pickling. However, it goes a notch higher as it requires the contents to be processed. You can process using a hot water bath or a canner. By processing, the contents get sealed through pressure application.
Canning plain eggplants is not recommended due to its spongy texture.
A common way of infusing eggplants in canning recipes is to make eggplant salsa. Additional ingredients like tomatoes, oil and seasonings are added.
How does a spoiled eggplant look like?
Ready-to-toss eggplants sell themselves out. Here is how to identify them:
- Wrinkled skin
- Brown, softened spots on skin or flesh
- Mold on stem and skin