- About Eggplant
- Eggplant Seed Saving Tips: Harvesting And Saving Seeds From Eggplant
- How to Save Eggplant Seeds
- Collecting Eggplant Seeds
- Tips on Saving Eggplant Seeds for Next Year
- How to Cook Eggplant
- When to Harvest Eggplant
- How to Harvest Eggplant
- How to Store Eggplant
- Preserving Your Pepper, Eggplant and Okra Harvest
Posted on Jul 20, 2018 in Fearless Food | 1 comment
Eggplant is a heat-loving crop native to India, and comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some 18th-century European varieties were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen’s eggs, hence the name “eggplant”. Eggplant is widely used in cooking, most notably as an important ingredient in Mediterranean dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille.
How do you know when it is ready to harvest?
Eggplant is another one of those vegetables that is easy to answer with “When it looks like what you see at the grocery store.” However, size is not always an indication of maturity, so it is best to feel the eggplant to be sure. Hold it in your palm and gently press it with your thumb. If the flesh presses in but bounces back, it is ready to harvest. If the flesh is hard and does not give, it is still too young to pick. If the thumb indentation remains, the eggplant is over-ripe and may be completely brown inside and bitter, with large tough seeds. Pick it and discard if this is the case. You can also tell if an eggplant is ripe when it is shiny. Below, the glossiest dark purple eggplant on the left is ready to pick. The light purple eggplant on the right is dull and needs several more days to ripen. The darker purple and white eggplant at the bottom is just starting to “shine up” and will be ready in a day or two.
How do you pick it it?
Eggplant stems are often thorny and do not separate from the plant easily. To pick eggplant, cut the stem with a pair of snips.
How do you store it?
Eggplant is best when eaten fresh, unrefrigerated. You can store it for up to one week on the counter at a cool room temperature. If you need it to keep longer, you can store it loose in the fridge. Only wash right before eating, as the extra moisture can cause it to go bad quickly. Careful when handling eggplant, as they bruise easily, and once bruised they will turn brown and start to taste bitter.
How do you cook it?
Wash the eggplant just before use. If it is fresh, it does not need to be peeled, however older eggplants will develop tougher skin and may need to be peeled. Once cut, the flesh will turn brown very quickly when exposed to air, so make sure only to cut it just before use. The browning process can be slowed by soaking the pieces in ice water or coating them with lemon juice or vinegar (similar to apples in this way). Eggplants act like sponges, and therefore will absorb oil very easily. To keep them from getting greasy while cooking, it is advised to cut the eggplant into chunks or rounds and sprinkle salt over them, letting it sit for 30-60 minutes. Dry off the excess moisture with a paper towel and then cook as desired. Eggplant is delicious baked, stuffed, steamed, fried, roasted, or sautéed and can be made into a variety of dishes such as dips, stews, sauces, and casseroles.
Grilled eggplant dip
2 large eggplants (about 2 pounds)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, minced
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
3 to 4 TB fresh lemon juice
2 TB nonfat yogurt
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1. Prick the eggplants in a few spots with a fork. Grill them over a medium flame, turning often, until the skin is charred on all sides and the flesh is soft, 20-30 minutes; OR roast in oven at 425 degrees until soft, about 45 minutes. Let cool.
2. Halve the eggplants lengthwise; scoop out the flesh. Puree the flesh in a food processor, or finely chop it by hand. Mix the garlic, green onions and parsley with the eggplant. Add the lemon juice, yogurt, olive oil and cumin. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
Note: a similar greek dip, Babaghanouj (pronounced ba-ba-ga-noosh) can be made by substituting tahini for the non-fat yogurt in this recipe. Tahini is a paste made of sesame seeds, and can be found in the international food aisles of most grocery stores, or at Mediterranean or Middle- Eastern markets
Most people who consume this vegetable, especially for the very first time do ponder upon the inside of eggplant. Normally, eggplants have a white or somewhat creamy flesh. But, when you cut them, you might see some brown spots in form of dots, or even entirely around its circumference (that’s if you cut them longitudinally).
The inside of an eggplant or cross-section of the fruit has a white flesh with soft small seeds that are barely visible. Some eggplants can however have their center filled with seeds. This is usually due to improper harvesting. If you harvest your eggplants on the wrong time, you will probably get them filled with seeds – which many people don’t like. You should only harvest them when they are ripe. Ripe eggplants have skin that looks glossy and tender.
Now, since a fresh eggplant has a white flesh, what brings about the brown spots?
Of course, you have every right to worry about the discoloration in your fruits. I think it’s a sign that you are conscious of your health, and you don’t want to eat anything that can harm you. The brown spots in eggplants are caused by oxidation process. Once cut, the flesh of these wonderful vegetables will turn brown very fast, immediately it comes into contact with air.
Not only eggplants, most fruits do experience the process of oxidation. This is the same process that makes your apples turn brown when exposed to air. Fruit oxidization occurs when oxygen from air comes into contact with phenolic compounds; a process that leads to the formation of brown spots.
Oxidization in fruits have been found to have some effects, as it can cause a reduction in the value of many minerals and vitamins. Health experts have warned that the longer a fruit is exposed to air and light, the less its vitamin content will be. So, keeping fruits protected from air and under only low temperature is essential in maintaining their nutritional profile.
So, can I eat eggplants that have their inside brown?
Normally, eggplants will have a small spots of dark brown colors around its seeds. If this is what you are seeing in your eggplants, then you can confidently consume them, as they are edible. But if the brown colored spots in your fruit are more than the whitish flesh, then you should discard it, because your eggplant might be spoiling.
Many people also use sharp knives to cut out the little brown spots in their own eggplants. You can also do this if the spots are minimal, rather than throwing away the whole fruit.
There is probably no way you can prevent these brownish or oxidized spots from forming. The only idea is to cut them only when you want to eat them. Avoid cutting them a long time before consumption. Also, there are some techniques you can use to slow down the formation of these brown spots. You can coat the eggplant flesh with lemon juice or vinegar. You can also soak them in ice cold-water.
Now that you know what the inside of eggplants look, you might want to take a look at some of the interesting articles I have written on these wonderful fruits (yes! they are botanically fruits, but used in culinary applications as vegetables):
- Are eggplants fruits or vegetables?
- Nutritional value and health benefits of eating eggplants
- Are eggplants fattening or good for weight loss?
- Are eggplants acidic? Can they cause acid relux?
- Do eggplants cause gas or flatulence?
- What to do with eggplants – simple cooking ideas!
Eggplant seeds may be removed prior to using in recipes that call for eggplant, or removed and stored for planting during the local growing season. Removing eggplant seeds carefully following the proper method will ensure an abundant harvest or tasty dish.
Cut your eggplant open and dice it into 2-inch square cubes. Place the cubes in a colander over a pan of boiling water or in a steamer and sprinkle with salt. Once they have begun to soften, squeeze them with your hands or mash them with a potato masher. Try to get out as much water as possible to release the seeds from the cubes.
Rinse the smashed cubes with water over a bowl; the seeds should fall through the strainer into the water. Continue to pour water through the mixture; immature seeds will float while the mature seeds sink.
Rinse the mature seeds to remove any salt and spread them on a coffee filter for drying. If you do not plan on using the seeds, but simply want to remove them from eggplant prior to making your recipe, throw them out and save the pulp.
Eggplant Seed Saving Tips: Harvesting And Saving Seeds From Eggplant
If you are a gardener who enjoys a challenge and gets pleasure out of growing your own food from scratch, then saving seeds from eggplant will be right up your alley. Follow the guidelines listed below and grow your own delicious eggplants every year.
How to Save Eggplant Seeds
The most important thing to remember regarding saving seeds from eggplant is to start with open-pollinated plants. Open pollination is pollination by wind, insects, birds or other natural causes. If you use seeds from a hybrid eggplant, it won’t work. Look at the plant label on the container or ask someone at the nursery if you have an open-pollinated plant.
When you’re collecting eggplant seeds, grow only one type of eggplant in a given area. This is because eggplants that are cross-pollinated produce genetically variable seeds and possibly inedible fruit the following year. Keep your particular eggplant variety at least 50 feet away from any other type of eggplants to ensure you get the same kind.
Collecting Eggplant Seeds
Wait until the eggplant is overripe and inedible before you start collecting eggplant seeds. The eggplant should look dull and off-colored. Overripe purple eggplants turn tan or brown while white and green eggplants take on a yellowish hue. An overripe eggplant is typically hard and shriveled.
Slice open the eggplant and separate the flesh from the seeds. Put the seeds in a bowl of water and wash the pulp away. Strain the seeds, pat them dry and spread them out on a tray to dry not more than two seeds thick.
Tips on Saving Eggplant Seeds for Next Year
There are a number of important eggplant seed saving tips you must follow if you want viable seeds to plant the following spring. Make sure the seeds are thoroughly dry before you store them. Put them in a cool place out of the sun where the humidity can be maintained between 20 and 40 percent. The drying process may take two to four weeks.
After you put the seeds in a jar for the winter, watch for moisture build up in the jar. If you see the jar sweating, your seeds are too wet and at risk of becoming moldy and useless. Add some silica gel capsules or another desiccant imminently to save wet seeds. If you choose not to store them in a jar, you’ll need to figure out a way to protect your seeds from insects. Consider a sturdy zip-locking plastic bag in this case, but ensure the seeds are completely dry.
If you have ever wondered how to save eggplant seeds, you now know that it isn’t very difficult. You just need to protect your open-pollinated eggplant variety from cross-pollination, harvest when the seeds are mature, and dry thoroughly. It’s fun! Your eggplant growing independence is just ahead of you.
How to Cook Eggplant
Eggplants are low in calories, but pack vitamins and minerals. They make a delicious base for a wide array of vegetarian meals. Here are tips for choosing, preparing, and cooking this versatile veggie.
You can find fresh eggplants in the grocery store year-round, but they’re at their peak in late summer.
The most common variety is the large, dark-purple globe eggplant. Look for smooth, shiny skins with fresh-looking stems and no blemishes. The fruit itself (eggplant is actually a berry!) should feel weighty in your hand. And when you press on the skin, it should be firm but give slightly, and then bounce back. If you’re not preparing your eggplants right away, store them in the crisper of your fridge up to five days–any longer, and eggplant can become bitter.
How do you prepare and cook eggplant? Let’s take a look:
Image zoom Photo by Meredith
Do you have to peel eggplant before you cook it? You don’t. The skin is entirely edible, though with larger eggplants it can be a little tough. If your eggplant is young, tender, and on the small side, the nutrient-rich skin can probably be left on for skillet frying or braising. Otherwise, peel the skin and then slice or cube the flesh.
The flesh should be pale and creamy and free of blemishes. Remove dark or bruised portions and seeds that are turning brown, as they can have a bitter taste and an unpleasant texture.
If you’re roasting the eggplant whole in the oven or on the grill, leave the skin on, then after roasting, let it cool, and scoop out the flesh.
To Salt or Not to Salt
This is a much debated topic. Salting your eggplant slices or cubes does have a few things going for it. First, it draws out juices, which, particularly for older eggplants, can be bitter. It also tightens and firms up the flesh, making the eggplant less likely to soak up as much oil. And salt adds flavor.
However, many cooks point out that modern varieties are not the bitter fruits of the past and that salting them makes little difference. Varieties like Japanese and Chinese eggplant should be fine without salting. With globe eggplants, experiment for yourself.
If you choose to salt your eggplant, first slice or cube it, and then salt generously, allowing the fruit to sit in a colander for at least an hour, preferably longer. Salted eggplant can sit purging for hours without harming the taste or texture. But before cooking the eggplant, be sure to rinse the salt off well. Then place the slices between sheets of paper towel and press gently to remove juices and firm the flesh. This is particularly important when frying your eggplant slices or cubes.
How to Fry Eggplant
Eggplant slices act like oil-slurping sponges. Even salted, gently hand-pressed slices will soak up plenty of oil. To reduce the amount of oil you’ll need, try brushing olive oil onto one side of eggplant slices; then lay them oil-side down in a hot skillet without crowding (a crowded pan will cause the slices to steam rather than fry). Brush the up-side only just before turning. If you brush both sides at the start, the oil will simply soak into the flesh. Fry until the slices are nice and brown.
You can also deep-fry eggplant slices and cubes. The super-hot oil immediately surrounds the flesh and seals in the moisture as it quickly browns the surface, leaving slices that are not noticeably greasier than the pan-fried kind.
Image zoom Eggplant Tomato Bake | Photo by LatinaCook
Some Fried Eggplant Recipes:
- Eggplant Tomato Bake
- Easy Fried Eggplant
- Tasty Fried Eggplant Balls
- Eggplant Parmesan I
How to Roast Eggplant
How do you cook eggplant in the oven? Well, there are a couple ways. To roast whole eggplants in the oven, leave the skin on and roast at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) until the skin gets wrinkly and begins to collapse in on the softened fruit. This method will also produce velvety smooth eggplant dips or spreads.
Image zoom Baba Ghanoush | Photo by LYNNINMA
Some Roasted Eggplant Recipes:
- Baba Ghanoush
- Olive Oil Roasted Eggplant with Lemon
- Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)
How to Bake Eggplant
To bake eggplant, you’ll cut the eggplant into rounds or strips and prepare them as the recipe indicates — for example, you can dredge them in egg and breadcrumbs or simply brush them with olive oil and bake them in a 350 degree F oven.
VIDEO: How to Make Baked Eggplant Parmesan
“Eggplant slices are coated with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese and baked between layers of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese for a filling Italian-inspired meal,” says Dollface. “Add fresh garlic and basil to taste. I use 2 to 4 cloves fresh garlic and 5 to 10 leaves of freshly harvested basil in the sauce. Fresh basil layered in one of the layers adds lots of ‘fresh’ flavor!”
Some Baked Eggplant Recipes:
- Disney’s Ratatouille
- Eggplant Rollatini
- Baked Eggplant Parmesan
How to Cook Eggplant on the Grill
To grill eggplant, treat it like you would roasted eggplant. Brush sliced eggplant with a little olive oil (skin on!) and grill over a hot fire until the fruit is nicely browned and the skin wrinkles.
Image zoom Grilled Eggplant Rollups | Photo by France C.
Some Grilled Eggplant Recipes:
- Chef John’s Baba Ghanoush
- Grilled Eggplant Rollups
- Grilled Eggplant, Tomato, and Goat Cheese
- Grilled Eggplant Moussaka
One More Reason to Love Eggplant
Try as you might, it’s difficult to overcook eggplant. As long as it doesn’t burn in the skillet or under the broiler, the flesh will just get increasingly tender and mild. Unlike some veggies, the trick is not to undercook it.
Find more top-rated Eggplant Recipes.
Harvest eggplant young as soon as the skin becomes glossy. The flesh of young eggplant will be more tender and the seeds smaller. The plant will produce more fruit if kept picked.
When to Harvest Eggplant
- Harvest eggplants when they are firm and glossy and big enough to eat—about one-third their maximum size.
- To test eggplant fruit for maturity, press the fruit with your thumb; if the flesh springs back it’s green and not ripe; if your thumb leaves an indentation, the fruit is overripe; the best tasting eggplant will be in between.
- A just ripe eggplant when sliced will have soft, well-formed but immature seeds; an immature and unripe eggplant will have no visible seeds; an overripe eggplant will have hard, dark seeds. (Seeds forming inside the fruit cause the skin to go from shiny to dull.) Both an under-ripe and overripe eggplant will be bitter tasting.
It is better to harvest eggplant just before its ripe than to wait too long.
Cut eggplant fruits from the plant with a garden pruner or sharp knife.
How to Harvest Eggplant
- Cut eggplant fruits from the plant with a garden pruner or sharp knife. Leave one inch of green stem attached to the fruit.
- Eggplants are very difficult to pull away from the plant by hand; doing so can damage the plant.
Rinse the fruit clean, pat it dry with a kitchen towel, and place it in a perforated plastic bag to keep it from drying out.
How to Store Eggplant
- Store eggplants in a room with high humidity to preserve texture and flavor and avoid dehydration. The optimal temperature for storing eggplant is 55°F (13°C). At 55°F, eggplants will keep for 1 to 2 weeks.
- You can store eggplant in the refrigerator but not cooler than 50°F (10°C). Rinse the fruit clean, pat it dry with a kitchen towel, and place it in a perforated plastic bag to keep it from drying out. (Refrigerators are cold and dry, not humid.)
- If exposed to temperatures below 41°F (5°C), eggplants will develop surface pits, bronzing, brown spots, and decay.
- Eggplant fruit discolors rapidly when cut open, so it’s best to use it immediately once sliced.
- Avoid storing eggplants with apples or tomatoes; ethylene (a natural plant hormone released in the form of a gas) given off by those fruits will cause eggplants to brown and decay.
More tips: How to Grow Eggplant.
Preserving Your Pepper, Eggplant and Okra Harvest
To enjoy your harvest of peppers , eggplant, and okra longer, considered freezing, canning, or drying the harvest. Here’s how.
Peppers are a snap to freeze because they don’t have to be blanched. Choose firm, crisp, red or green, thick-walled peppers. Wash, cut out the stem and remove the seeds. Cut peppers in halves, rings or strips, or dice them. Pack into freezer containers, leaving no headspace.
If you want to fit more peppers into each freezer container, blanch halves for 3 minutes, slices for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water, and drain well. Pack in freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
The most successful way to freeze eggplant is in precooked casseroles or sauces. But if you want to freeze plain eggplant, pick fruits when the skins are a dark color all over. Prepare enough for one blanching at a time and work quickly, because eggplant discolors. Wash, peel and slice 1/2-inch thick, or cut into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes.
Blanch 4 minutes in one gallon of boiling water with 1/2 cup lemon juice or 4 1/2 teaspoons citric acid. Cool, drain and place in freezer containers leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Separate slices with sheets of freezer paper, then put into containers.
Use 2- to 31/2-inch-long green pods. Wash, trim stems but don’t cut open pods. Blanch 3 minutes. Drain, cool quickly in cold water and drain again. Leave whole or slice. Pack in containers leaving 1/2-inch of headspace.
Because freezing and pickling work so well with peppers, eggplant and okra, canning isn’t the preservation method of choice. If you want to can them, however, remember that peppers, eggplant and okra are low-acid vegetables, so they must be pressure canned, unless you make them into relish or pickle them.
Peppers are very easy to dry. For chili peppers, let the fruit turn red on the plant and harvest the entire plant in late summer. Hang the plants upside down in a dry location with good air circulation. Peppers dry well off the plants, too. Spread them on a screen and leave them in a dry place with good air circulation for several weeks, or spread them on a cookie sheet and dry in a barely warm oven. Cut blockier bell-type peppers into rings or small chunks before drying them.
Once dried, you can string peppers with a needle on strong thread. Hang the ropes of dried peppers where it’s warm and dry. Pepper strings are great gifts and make a colorful addition to any kitchen.
The Spice Rack
To make your own hot pepper spices, remove the stems and seeds from dried peppers and grind them to the consistency you want. Store the ground peppers in airtight containers.
To make a spicy vinegar, combine 24 red chili peppers in a quart of distilled white vinegar and cover tightly. Shake the contents daily. After two weeks, strain the vinegar and place in a tightly corked jar. For a milder vinegar, use fewer peppers.