When is eggplant bad?

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Nobody wants to chow down on rotten eggplant. But is a slightly overripe eggplant safe to eat? It is, but once eggplants ripen past their peak, they become increasingly bitter, so it’s not the best idea. To ensure your eggplant Parmesan, eggplant lasagna, baba ganoush, ratatouille or other eggplant-based dish turns out tasty, it’s important to know how to tell when eggplants are going bad. Also learn how to select good eggplants, how to properly store them and the shelf life you can expect.

When to Toss an Eggplant

If an eggplant’s skin is getting withered and wrinkly, or if the fruit (yeah, eggplant is technically a fruit) is notably soft or squishy, or it just has soft spots anywhere, it’s rotting. If the stem is browning or developing mold – or if there’s mold anywhere else on it – it’s also time to discard the eggplant. And is the eggplant brown inside? If it is when you cut into it, don’t use it.

But keep in mind that eggplant flesh starts browning shortly after you cut it. That’s due to a process called enzymatic browning, which is common in fruits and veggies (you’ve undoubtedly witnessed it when cutting apples or avocados, in peeled bananas, etc.). This browning doesn’t look too appetizing, but it’s safe to eat. So, pay attention to whether the eggplant’s meat is already brown as soon as you slice it.

How to Select Ripe Eggplant

Look for eggplants that have vibrant, shiny, smooth, taut skin that’s uniform in color as well as green, healthy-looking stems that aren’t dried out, decaying or moldy. When you spot a candidate, pick it up; it should feel heavy for its size and firm, but not so rock-hard that it doesn’t give with a bit of pressure. Inspect the eggplant for mold, soft spots, bruises, cuts or other damage.

Also, large eggplants may be a little more bitter than smaller ones. That’s not because of ripeness, but just because the bigger they are, the more seeds they have. Seeds are the main source of bitterness in eggplants. However, remember that they also start getting increasingly bitter after they peak in ripeness.

Eggplant Storage and Shelf Life

There’s some debate as to whether it’s better to store eggplant at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It’s a tropical plant and somewhat sensitive to cold, so room temperature seems to make more sense. Eggplants typically hold up for about three days at room temperature. They may last longer in the vegetable crisper in your fridge, but their taste and texture can still start to go downhill after three or four days.

Either way, they do need to breathe, so don’t store whole eggplants in sealed containers or bags. While cold temperature aren’t ideal, neither are hot temperatures. If your kitchen tends to get hot, protect eggplants by storing them in a cabinet or pantry away from the range. Also, don’t keep them too close to bananas, tomatoes, melons or other fruit that gives off significant amounts of ethylene while ripening, as this accelerates an eggplant’s decline.

It’s better not to pre-cut raw eggplant and store it. It browns quickly, and even tricks like squirting it with lemon juice that works on other produce won’t help much with eggplant.

How to Freeze Eggplant

To extend the storage life of raw eggplant, freeze it. It must be blanched first; otherwise, it still discolors and loses quality in taste and texture. To blanch an eggplant:

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat.
  • Lightly salt the water or add 1/4 cup of lemon juice per 8 cups of water.
  • Fill a large bowl with ice water and place it next to the stove.
  • Uniformly slice a few pieces of eggplant at a time to blanch them without losing the boil and so that waiting slices don’t start browning; put them in the boiling water.
  • Boil the eggplant for about 4 to 5 minutes, until just soft to the center.
  • Remove the slices with a slotted spoon or tongs and shock them by submerging them in the ice bath right away to stop further cooking.
  • Repeat until you’ve blanched all the eggplant; re-ice the cold water as needed.

To freeze the eggplant, dry it completely. If you have a vacuum sealer, use that to package it. Otherwise, press out as much air as you can when sealing the freezer bag. For the best quality, use frozen raw or cooked eggplant within a year from freezing.

What to do with an aubergine (eggplant) that has gone brown inside?

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Down & Dirty: Eggplant

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which Nozlee Samadzadeh breaks down our favorite seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more by the numbers.

The nightshades we know best are tomatoes and potatoes, but eggplant has its own rightful spot on the list. Bulbous with waxy, shiny skin, eggplant can be a little daunting — and that’s not mentioning the spikes that can grow on its top stem! Beneath that tough exterior, though, lies creamy white flesh waiting for you to blitz into dip or simmer into sauce. Today we tackle eggplants — also called aubergines, also called delicious.


The Cast of Characters: Eggplants come in all colors and sizes. We tracked down as many as we could at market but by no means all — don’t forget round, green-striped eggplant, or thumb-sized fairy tale eggplants! When shopping, pick smooth, blemish-free eggplant that feel light in your hand (heavier ones will have overly developed seeds). Your thumbnail should barely make an impression in the skin. If it bounces back, then the eggplant might be overly mature.

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1. Black: These are the textbook example of an eggplant. Their round shape and large size makes them perfect for grilling (no fear of your eggplant slabs falling through the grill grates!) or roasting (with a large inner volume, you get more bang for your baba ghanoush). Their darker skin can be tough, so peel it away if it seems too thick.

2. Bicolor: This is an Antigua eggplant, an Italian heirloom variety. Mild and tender, they grow small enough that the skin stays thin and easily edible.

3. White: Originally, purple varieties of eggplant were called “aubergines” for their round shape (the word comes from old Spanish and French words for peaches and apricots, although later the “aubergine” came to mean “dark purple” as well as to refer to the plant) and white varieties were called “eggplant” for looking like, well, eggs. While “eggplant” caught on for all varieties, the white version is still around and worth a try. They’re sweeter and less bitter than darker varieties because of their pigment, and their thanks to their ghostly shade, they won’t mar the color of your tapenade.

4. Purple: From violet to light pink, there’s an eggplant for every shade of the purple spectrum. Try buying one of each at the farmers’ market and see which you like best.

5. Long and Skinny: Alternately called Japanese, Chinese, or Asian, these long and skinny eggplants can be darkest purple, violet, white, or light green. What they share is a high ratio of skin to inner flesh, making them great for stir frying (with less inner surface area, the sliced eggplant won’t fall apart), pickling, and even tempura. They can toughen quickly, so pick smaller ones no greater than the size of a sausage in width.


6. Seedy characters: Overripe or large eggplant can taste bitter, and its spongy texture can absorb oil like nobody’s business during cooking. Solve both problems by salting your eggplant before cooking — cut it as directed for your recipe, then toss the pieces with a tablespoon or two of kosher salt and let it all rest in a colander. (If the pieces are very large, you can weigh them down with a heavy can or skillet.) The salt draws out moisture (and thus bitterness) through osmosis — after 30 minutes or so, drain and dry the eggplant thoroughly, then continue with your recipe. If the seeds of the eggplant are very large, you can remove them with the tip of a knife.

When roasting eggplant for dips and spreads, be sure to prick the skin with a fork in several places — you don’t want exploded eggplant flesh on the ceiling of your oven, do you? The eggplant is done when the skin is totally slack and browned all over — then you simply peel it and continue on with the tender insides.

Eggplant’s meaty texture and versatile flavor profile makes it a star in cuisines from Italy to India. Stuffed, grilled, or simmered, there are plenty of FOOD52 eggplant recipes to go around!

Eggplant Parm

Grilled Lamb and Eggplant

Eggplant Curry

Cooking eggplant is easy and results in a flavorful, fork-tender bite when done correctly. This nightshade can be cooked in a variety of methods making it a perfect vegetable to use year around.

One of the key components in cooking eggplant is removing the bitterness to bring out eggplant’s flavor potential. It is a key step when learning how to cook eggplant but luckily it is easy to do.

Glossy, jewel-toned eggplants make an excellent addition to any savory dish. Its chewy texture makes it a great choice for substituting meat in a vegan dish. Eggplant also lends itself well to sauces and stews with its delightful flavor and creamy texture.

How To Select and Store

Eggplant’s peak season is August through October but fortunately, it can be found year round so you aren’t limited to only cooking it during summer. During the late summer, you should be able to find eggplant at your local farmers market where the eggplant is sure to be freshly picked.

When selecting eggplant; look for a firm, glossy skin with no wrinkling. Lightly press on it with your thumb to ensure it hasn’t gone soft. Eggplants perish quickly so plan to buy it only a couple of days in advance of cooking it. You can store unwashed and uncut eggplant in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Health Benefits

Eggplant is rich in vitamins, minerals, and also phytonutrients which help to keep the brain healthy. One-cup of cooked eggplant contains 2 grams of fiber, 7 percent DV copper, and 6 percent DV manganese. Eggplant’s phytonutrients include nasunin, which is an antioxidant which may help to protect cells from free radical damage. Nausunin is found in the skin of eggplant which is all the more reason not to peel it.

Tips and Tricks

Image of salted eggplant via

Often when being prepared, eggplant begins to brown, but But with a few tips you can prevent it.

Opt for a stainless steel knife instead of a carbon steel knife which reacts with the phytonutrients in eggplant. Once cut, brush the eggplant with fresh lemon juice, which will minimize browning.

If you desire tender, creamy texture then salting before cooking eggplant is recommended. Salting will draw out excess moisture and also help to reduce any bitterness that might be present. Some varieties of eggplant like Southeast Asian or overripe eggplants are more prone to bitterness.

To salt the eggplant, place cut eggplant into a colander. Sprinkle both sides with a generous amount of sea salt. Let it sit for 60 to 90 minutes. Rinse with cold water and gently pat dry between two tea towels or paper towels.

Cooking Eggplant

Image of grilled eggplant via

There are many ways to go about cooking eggplant ranging from baking to grilling. Each method provides a tasty result. Remember, you can always opt to salt the eggplant after cutting into instructed shape if you are concerned about a bitter flavor. Simply follow the instructions above and then continue on with the recipe.

How To Bake Eggplant

For baked eggplant that’s creamy in texture and lightly browned, you’ll opt to cook it a lower temperature. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds. Brush eggplant slices lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Eggplant should be lightly browned and fork tender.

How To Roast Eggplant

For roasted eggplant with a caramelized flavor, you’ll cook eggplant in the oven at a higher temperature. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or baking mat.

Slice the eggplant vertically in half. Cut off the stem. Score the eggplant by cutting it in a crosshatch fashion.

Brush each half lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplant. When roasted eggplant is done, it should be wilting around the edges and have a browned interior. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

How To Saute Eggplant

Sauteing eggplant is a quick and easy way to enjoy the vegetable. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Chop eggplant into bite sized pieces. Add eggplant and any desired seasonings or spices. Saute for 10 minutes, or until fork tender stirring continuously throughout the cooking time.

How To Grill Eggplant

Grilled eggplant makes a delicious addition to any summertime barbecue. It also works wonderfully on grilled veggie kabobs.

Heat a charcoal or gas grill over medium-high heat. Slice eggplant into rounds and lightly brush with olive oil. Grill covered if using gas, uncovered if using charcoal for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Season as desired.

Eggplant Recipes

Image via Delish Knowledge

Vegan Eggplant Gyros
These light and healthy vegan eggplant gyros make the perfect summer sandwich. Eggplant’s chewy texture perfectly replaces the meat that is usually in gyros and its flavor pairs perfectly with the creamy hummus.

Image via Hot for Food

Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Subs
Breaded eggplant topped with marinara and cashew cheese makes the perfect filling for these vegan eggplant parmesan subs. This is an ideal dish for anyone who is hesitant about eating eggplant since all the flavorful fillings with complement eggplant’s flavor.

Image via Ally-Jane

Vegan Ratatouille
This picnic-friendly vegan ratatouille is the perfect dish to liven up your summer with more vegetables. Tarragon adds a herby flavor that pairs perfectly with the eggplant, zucchini, and squash.

Image via Minimalist Baker

Vegan Cashew-less Queso
Most vegan cheese recipes call for cashews much to the dismay of those with nut allergies. But once blended, eggplant makes the perfect creamy substitute in this vegan queso recipe.

Image via Every Last Bite

Eggplant Cannelloni
Rolled up grilled eggplant bakes the perfect outer shell for pesto and marinara in this eggplant cannelloni recipe. This grain-free dish is delicious and comforting without the guilt.

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Slumcrop Millionaires: Monsanto Faces Biopiracy Lawsuit for Stealing India’s Eggplant

Image of eggplant in metal bowl via

Eggplant can be broiled, grilled, sautéed, steamed, or pan-fried, or stuffed and baked. You make ratatouille or eggplant parmesan.

The mild flavor and light, spongy texture of the eggplant make it a good match for other vegetables, browned and chopped meat, cooked fish or shellfish.

Black Beauty, White Egg, and Rosa Bianca eggplants

Types of Eggplant

  • The classic Western eggplant is cylindrical- or pear-shaped with a smooth, glossy, deep purple skin and a green calyx or stem cap. But the eggplant—which is botanically speaking a berry, not a vegetable—can assume many shapes and colors.
  • Besides the Western eggplant, other purple eggplants include the Japanese eggplant and the Chinese eggplant—both of which are very slender and barely cylindrical.
  • The deep purple Japanese eggplant is long, straight, and slender with a bright green calyx or cap. The lavender-purple Chinese eggplant is longer than the Japanese eggplant with a purple calyx.
  • In Thailand, small, round eggplants are pale green with white and bright orange stripes. The ‘Turkish Orange’ eggplant looks more like a tomato than an eggplant, and the ‘Red Ruffled’ eggplant also looks much like a small tomato.
  • The white eggplant—which is often used for pickling and is thought to have originated in India—is the same size and shape as an egg with a skin that is firm and smooth. No doubt, the white eggplant is how the eggplant got its name.

How to Choose Eggplant

  • Select eggplants that are shiny, firm, and heavy for their size.
  • The full-colored purple eggplant will take on a dull greenish-bronze color when it becomes overripe.
  • A mature eggplant will be soft enough that thumb pressure will leave an indentation in the flesh of the fruit.
  • Avoid eggplants that are bruised or have wrinkled skin.
  • Overgrown eggplant will become soft and spongy and will be bitter tasting.

How to Store Eggplant

  • Eggplant will keep for up to four days in the refrigerator crisper inside a plastic bag. The eggplant will shrivel as it ages.

Slicing eggplant for grilling, broiling, and sauteing

How to Prepare Eggplant

  • Young eggplant does not need to be peeled. It can be washed and the ends trimmed before cooking.
  • Western eggplant varieties may require salting to remove bitter juices before cooking.
  • Trim the stem end; cut the eggplant into slices about ¼ inch (¾ cm) wide; peel or discard the end slices; soak in cold salted water for 30 minutes or until the eggplant releases brown juice; drain and proceed with the recipe.
  • As an alternative, salt the slices and place them between sheets of paper towels, weigh them down with a heavy plate, and let sit for one hour.
  • Eggplant easily soaks up cooking oils so it is best to coat eggplant slices with flour, batter, or crumbs before cooking to inhibit fat absorption.

Grilled eggplant

How to Broil or Grill Eggplant

  1. Peel the eggplant and cut into ½-inch-thick slices and salt (see preparation above).
  2. Heat broiler or grill to moderately high heat; place broiler rack or grill 4 inches from heat.
  3. Brush eggplant with olive oil and place oiled side down on a baking sheet directly on the grill.
  4. Sprinkle opposite side with olive oil.
  5. Broil or grill until browned on both side, about 10 minutes, turning for even cooking; brush with more oil if eggplant looks dry
  6. Serve hot or at room temperature.

How to Sauté Eggplant

  1. Peel the eggplant and cut into ½-inch-thick cubes and salt (see preparation above).
  2. Coat the bottom of a deep skillet with 1/3 cup of olive oil.
  3. Heat the skillet and oil over medium heat.
  4. When the skillet is hot add the eggplant.
  5. Stir and toss until the eggplant begins to release some of the oil it has absorbed, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Cook and stir frequently until the eggplant is tender, about 30 minutes, perhaps longer.
  7. About 5 minutes before it is done, add a bit of minced garlic and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Eggplant can be sautéed with sliced bell pepper, onion, zucchini, summer squash, cubed potatoes, cauliflower, and shallots.

Ratatouille

How to Make Ratatouille

Using about 2 pounds of eggplant.

  1. Peel the eggplant and cut into ½-inch-thick cubes and salt (see preparation above).
  2. Coat the bottom of a deep skillet with 1/3 cup of olive oil and add 1 medium onion chopped and a nearly a tablespoon of minced garlic.
  3. Heat the skillet and oil over medium heat.
  4. When the skillet is hot add the eggplant.
  5. Stir and toss until the eggplant begins to release some of the oil it has absorbed, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Cook and stir frequently until the eggplant is tender, about 30 minutes, perhaps longer.
  7. Stir in 2 cups of chopped ripe fresh tomatoes.
  8. Cook for another 10 minutes and add a bit more minced garlic.
  9. About 5 minutes before it is done, add a bit of minced garlic and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

How to Steam Eggplant

Asian eggplants are easily steamed.

  1. Trim the eggplant and halve lengthwise.
  2. Set a steamer basket just above water in a pot and bring the water to a boil.
  3. Place the eggplant in the basket and steam until very tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Cool the eggplant until it can be handled then slice with a knife and toss in a soy or sesame sauce to flavor and moisten.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Eggplant Parmesan

How to Make Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients: 2 medium to large eggplants; olive oil; all-purpose flour; 2 cups tomato sauce; 8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese; cup grated Parmesan cheese; basil leaves.

  1. Peel the eggplant and cut into ½-inch thick slices.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Put 3 tablespoons of olive in a large skillet over medium heat.
  4. Dredge the eggplant slices in flour one at a time; shake off excess.
  5. Cook the eggplant uncrowded in batches; cook on each side until brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add oil to the skillet if needed.
  7. Drain the eggplant pieces on a paper towel.
  8. Lightly oil a baking dish then spoon in a bit of tomato sauce.
  9. Top with a layer of eggplant then add a layer of each cheese and a few fresh basil leaves.
  10. Repeat until all of the ingredients are used. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.
  11. Bake until the dish is bubbling hot, about 20 to 30 minutes
  12. Mince basil on top and serve hot or at room temperature.

Stuffed eggplant

How to Bake Stuffed Eggplant

You will need two sauté pans for this recipe.

  1. Cut the 2 small eggplants in half and scoop out the meat; leave enough skin to hold the eggplant together during baking.
  2. Chop the eggplant meat and sauté it in olive oil with minced garlic.
  3. In a second pan, sauté 2 cups of croutons or diced bread until the bread is crisp and brown.
  4. Chop anchovy fillets and combine with the eggplant and croutons
  5. Add olive and season to taste; add lemon juice and grated rind.
  6. Stuff the eggplant halves with the mixture and brush with olive oil
  7. Place the halves in a baking dish with 1 cup of broth and bake at 350 degrees F or 40 minutes.
  8. Serve hot.

Eggplant Serving Suggestions

Eggplant has a mild flavor somewhat similar to fried oysters. Eggplant can be:

  • Skewered and grilled.
  • Halved, stuffed and baked.
  • Stewed with tomatoes and peppers or with oil and garlic.
  • Sliced, layered with cheese and tomato sauce and baked parmigiana. Coated in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
  • Used as a meat or pasta substitute.
  • Used in curries as in Southern India.
  • Pickled, braised with pork, or fried in tempura batter as in Asia.
  • Included in pasta sauces, baked dishes, and relish caponata as in Italy.
  • Layered with ground lamb or other meat and topped with a béchamel sauce to make the Greek moussaka.
  • Combined with cheese, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and meat to make a Mediterranean casserole.
  • Grilled, mashed and mixed with seasonings to make the Middle Eastern dish baba ghanoush.
  • Combined with tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and herbs to make the French stew ratatouille.
  • Turkish cookery is said to have more than 1,000 recipes for preparing eggplant. One eggplant dish popular in the Arab world is called Imam bayildi—which means “the priest fainted.” It consists of eggplant stuffed with onions and sometimes tomatoes and cooked with olive oil.
  • One small or medium-size eggplant split lengthwise will make two shells perfect for stuffing as its own casserole dish. Just mix the flesh of the eggplant together with bread crumbs, stuff the shells, and bake.

Eggplant Flavor Partners

Eggplant Nutrition

  • Eggplant contains dietary fiber and some protein.
  • One-half cup of cooked eggplant contains 19 calories.

White Asian eggplant

Get to Know Eggplants

  • The eggplant is an herbaceous perennial usually grown as an annual. It has large, lobed, velvety gray leaves that are 4 to 5 inches (10-12 cm) long.
  • Classic pear-shaped eggplant berries can range from 5 to 12 inches (13-30 cm) long. Other varieties with white, green, yellow, or mottled green fruits are smaller. The flesh of the eggplant is greenish-white to white.
  • Each plant usually produces 3 to 4 well-developed fruits which in some varieties can weigh up to 2 pounds (0.75 kg) or more each. Only the fruit of the eggplant is edible, all other parts are poisonous.
  • The skin of a young eggplant is edible but toughens with age. The flesh of classic Western eggplants has more moisture and is more bitter than that of the Asian varieties. To draw off the eggplant’s bitter juices, western eggplants are often salted before cooking. Asian eggplant varieties are not bitter and do not require salting.
  • The eggplant is botanically a berry. In botany, a berry is a simple fleshy fruit in which the entire ovary wall ripens around the seed and is edible. Examples of other botanical berries include the tomato, grape, avocado, persimmon, guava, and chile pepper.
  • In Great Britain and France and in many other parts of the world, eggplant is called “aubergine”.
  • The word aubergine traces the eggplant’s travels from its native India to Europe. Aubergine is derived from the Sanskrit word for the eggplant: vatin gana. Vatin gana became badingen in Persian when the eggplant was introduced to the Near East. Badingen became al-badingen in Arabic as the plant traveled further west, and when the Moorish invaders introduced the eggplant to Spain in the sixteenth-century al-badingen became alberginia in Catalan Spanish. Aubergine is a corruption of al-badingan and albadingena.
  • The first eggplants to reach Europe were white and egg-shaped. The eggplant originated in India but was first cultivated in China in the fifth century B.C. The small egg-like eggplant is still popular in Spain today and is often pickled.
  • The botanical name for eggplant is Solanum melongena.
  • A related plant is S. integrifolium which is sometimes called tomato-fruited eggplant or gilos. This plant is cultivated in Asia and Africa and bears red- and orange-fruited eggplants rarely exceeding 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.

Also of interest:

How to Grow Eggplant

How to Harvest and Store Eggplant

JNemchinova/iStock/GettyImages

Eggplants are an extremely healthy vegetable for any diet. Unlike many foods, where the seeds are unpalatable and often removed before eating, eggplant seeds are healthy and are beneficial to health. The problem with eggplants is that they are often very bitter and most people are unable to eat them raw as a result. Eggplant seeds are similar, being unpalatable to most tastes due to the bitterness of the plant.

Cook the eggplant seeds. The eggplant seeds can be removed and cooked separately, like pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, or can be left with the eggplant and cooked with the entire vegetable. For a snack like pumpkin seeds, remove the eggplant seeds and bake them with some salt and other spices. Otherwise, cook them with the rest of the vegetable.

Add spices. Eggplant seeds are best when spices are added. Eggplants are originally from areas like India, which are rich in healthy spices as well. These spices like turmeric, red pepper and cumin can add flavor to an otherwise bitter seed.

Eat the seeds. They are best when cooked with the rest of the vegetable, since the seeds are bitterer than the vegetable flesh and the spices added will give it a unique flavor. They can be eaten separately or with the flesh of the vegetable.

Saving Eggplant Seeds

Growing Eggplants for Seed

Perennial in tropical and some subtropical climates, eggplants are frost sensitive and are generally cultivated as annuals in temperate climates. They grow best in warm climates with warm nights; daytime temperatures of 77 to 95°F (25 to 35°C) and nighttime tem­peratures of 70 to 80°F (21 to 27°C) are ideal for vegetative growth and fruit set. Eggplants grown for seed saving should be sown or, more commonly, transplanted at the same time and with the same spacing as when grown for eating. Eggplant varieties range drastically in height from 18 to 48 inches (46-122 cm) when fully grown. Large plants can be staked or caged like tomatoes. Eggplants can also be grown individu­ally in five-gallon nursery pots or similarly sized containers. Seed maturity occurs after market maturity—approximately 50 to 60 days or more after pollination—and seed savers in northern regions should make sure there are enough warm days in the growing season for fruits to fully ripen.

Flowering, Pollination, and Seed Set

Eggplants either produce solitary flowers or small clusters of flowers, and each white or violet blossom is comprised of six fused petals. Eggplant flowers are perfect and are capable of self-pollination. The anthers create a ring around the pistil, but style length and stigma exsertion vary from cultivar to cultivar, influenc­ing the likelihood of cross-pollination by insects. Eggplants typically continue to produce flowers and set fruits as long as environmental conditions remain favorable, but when fruits are allowed to reach seed maturity, the production of new fruits declines. Since it is always best to collect seeds from multiple plants, many gardeners meet both their seed and culinary needs by allowing a fruit or two from each plant in a population to ripen to seed maturity, while picking the remaining fruits for eating.

Variety Maintenance

As a primarily self-pollinating crop with some frequency of cross-pollination by insects, egg­plant requires an isolation distance similar to that of many outcrossing species. In the home garden, an isolation distance of 300 to 1,600 feet (91 to 488 m) helps to minimize the chance of outcross­ing. Gardeners who exchange seeds with others or who garden in settings that do not provide many landscape barriers may choose to use the upper end of this range as a starting point when determining an isolation distance. Seed savers working toward the genetic preservation of a vari­ety should consider using an isolation distance of half a mile (0.8 km).

If a sufficient isolation distance cannot be provided, gardeners who wish to grow more than one variety in the same season can easily pro­duce true-to-type seeds by isolating flowers with blossom bags (p. 42). After successful fertiliza­tion, which is evidenced by the appearance of the developing fruits, the blossom bags should be removed to allow normal fruit development. Isolated fruits must be labeled at this point, so they can be identified later, when they are mature and ready to be harvested. If plants are grown only for seed production, and a large seed yield is desired, it is more efficient to build small cages or use row cover to isolate multiple plants than to isolate individual blossoms. Whether caging or blossom-bagging, it is important to harvest at least one fruit from each plant in the population.

Eggplant is self-pollinating, and viable seeds can be collected from just one plant. Although inbreeding depression is not generally a prob­lem for eggplant, it is best to save seeds from multiple plants, especially if seeds will be shared with others. The recommended population size to help capture a variety’s genetic diversity is 5 to 20 plants. If genetic preservation is the goal, seeds should be collected from 50 plants or more.

When roguing or selecting, seed savers should consider important eggplant traits such as fruit color, pattern, shape, and size.

Seed Maturity and Harvest

At seed maturity, eggplant fruits gen­erally change color; their original hues take on a yellow or brownish cast, and their glossy skins become dull. Ripe fruits easily separate from the plant when pulled. Individual fruits should be harvested as they mature. Botanically mature fruits can be held after harvest in a warm, protected loca­tion, allowing for the possibility of further seed development, but seeds must be extracted and processed before the fruits show any signs of rot.

Cleaning and Storage

Eggplants are wet-processed. In many variet­ies, the seeds are often concentrated near the blossom end of the fruit, and this portion alone should be cut into small cubes and pulsed in a food processor with ample water, using a dough blade to prevent damage to the seeds, until the seeds are dislodged from the flesh.

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After blending, begin the decanting process by pouring the seed slurry into a larger container and adding even more water. Agitating the watery mash will dislodge seeds from the pulp and allow the viable seeds to settle to the bottom of the container. Repeated decanting should remove most of the pulp and any immature seeds; the mature seeds that remain can then be transferred to a strainer and rinsed with a strong stream of water. Immediately after rinsing, seeds should be spread in a thin layer on screens to dry in a warm, well-ventilated place. Small quantities of seeds can be dried on coffee filters.

When stored under cool, dry conditions, eggplant seeds can be expected to remain viable for four to six years.

Solanum melongena

FAMILY: Solanaceae

LIFE CYCLE: Frost-sensitive perennial, typically grown as an annual in temperate climates

SUGGESTED SPACING: Same as when grown for eating

OTHER REQUIREMENTS: None

FLOWER TYPE: Perfect, self-fertile flowers are borne singly or in small clusters.

POLLINATION: Self-pollinated (autogamous) and insect-pollinated

MATING SYSTEM: Mixed mating system of self- and cross-pollination

ADDITIONAL CROSS-POLLINATION CONCERNS: None

FRUIT TYPE: Fleshy fruit (berry)

SEED MATURITY: Seed maturity occurs after market matu­rity. Fruits develop a yellowish or brownish cast and lose luster. Harvest individual fruits as they mature.

PROCESSING METHOD: Blend fruits, then decant.

EXPECTED SEED LIFE: 4–6 years

ISOLATION DISTANCE: 300–1,600 feet (91–488 m)

Population Size

For Viable Seeds: 1 plant

For Variety Maintenance: 5–20 plants

For more on seed saving, see our Seed Saving Guide.

Reprinted with permission from The Seed Garden, by Micaela Colley & Jared Zystro, edited by Lee Buttala & Shanyn Siegel and published by Seed Savers Exchange, 2015. Buy this book from our store: The Seed Garden.

So you’ve bought your first eggplant with the intention of making ratatouille, but for some reason, you didn’t quite get to it yet. Now, a week later, you start to wonder: does eggplant go bad?

Or maybe you’re a seasoned cook with a bunch of eggplant recipes in your repertoire. But when eggplants went on sale yesterday, you jumped the gun and bought way too many. Now you’re wondering how you should store them, so they last as long as possible.

Maybe you’re even considering freezing some of them, as you surely won’t be able to use all of them within the next week or so.

If some of these concerns sound familiar, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of eggplants. We also touch upon freezing them if that’s what you’re looking for. If that sounds interesting, read on.

Image used under Creative Commons from albastrica mititica

How to Store Eggplants

If you want to store eggplants for a prolonged period, it makes sense to choose the best ones when shopping. Generally, you should aim to choose ones that are fully ripe or almost ripe.

That means the vegetable should be quite firm to the touch, but not super firm, and definitely not soft. When choosing, make sure to check for bruises and soft spots. A damaged eggplant will likely start to rot much earlier than a bruise-free one.

Now that you’ve bought the veggie, it’s time to put it into storage. First off, if you buy shrink-wrapped eggplants, unwrap them when you get home.

The best place to store it is a really cool pantry or a cellar, as the optimal temperature for eggplants is 50-54°F (or 10-12°C). Unfortunately, hardly anyone has such a cool pantry available.

So unless you have access to a room with constant 50-54°F, you’re left with the usual choice between the fridge and room temperature in the kitchen or pantry.

For short term storage, the kitchen counter or pantry is perfectly fine. Just make sure the eggplant sits in a well-ventilated place and away from sunlight and ethylene producers (e.g., bananas). Ethylene speeds up ripening, and you definitely don’t want that.

If you expect to store the whole eggplant for more than 3 or 4 days, it’s better to refrigerate it. Just store the fresh ones in the fridge, no added packaging needed. In fact, do not seal the eggplants in any wrapping to prevent decay while in storage.

Note

Keeping fresh eggplants in the fridge will cause the flesh to darken.

When it comes to cut or cooked eggplants, keep them in the fridge, tightly sealed in an airtight container.

Image used under Creative Commons from Clyde Robinson

Can You Freeze Eggplant?

Like with many other veggies, freezing is a pretty good option for preserving eggplants for longer.

There are at least a few ways to freeze eggplants. The best way that requires the least work is making a dish that includes the veggie and freezing the entire dish. That method doesn’t require any extra work besides transferring the dish into freezer-safe containers. Of course, it doesn’t work for all dishes. Cooked ones, such as casseroles, are preferred since they freeze well.

Another popular and quite versatile method of freezing is by blanching and freezing eggplants cut into rounds.

First off, you wash the eggplant and slice it into rounds. Then it’s blanching time. Once you’ve dried the blanched pieces, flash freezing is the next on our todo list.

Once frozen, transfer the rounds into freezer bags, squeeze the air out of them, seal them tightly and chuck into the freezer. If needed, add a label with a name and date to each bag.

As you can see, this method is quite time-consuming. That’s why, if possible, I recommend freezing eggplants in cooked dishes.

(credit: Charles)

How Long Does Eggplant Last

Like almost all veggies, fresh eggplants don’t last that long. If you store them at room temperature, they stay fresh for about three to five days. In the fridge, they can last for about 7 to 10 days in good condition.

Since we’re talking about vegetables here, sometimes they stay fresh for much longer, but going bad after two or three days in the fridge shouldn’t be that much of a surprise either. You never know how well was the veggie stored before you bought it.

If you want to pre-cut eggplant on the weekend to save time on a weekday dinner, you should know that cut eggplant retains good quality for only 3 to 4 days. So if you need it on a Friday, it’s better to pre-cut it in the middle of the week if possible.

When it comes to cooked eggplant or one that’s part of a dish, it will retain quality for up to five days.

As usual, if you decide to freeze this veggie, it can last months in the freezer without much quality loss.

Pantry Fridge
Eggplant (whole) 3 – 5 days 7 – 10 days
Eggplant (cut) 3 – 4 days
Eggplant (cooked) 3 – 5 days

Please note that the estimates above are for best quality.

(credit: Charles)

How to Tell If Eggplants Are Gone Bad?

If the veggie starts to rot, discard it. Some people cut out the rotten part and use the rest, but that’s something that I don’t recommend. Nevertheless, if the rotten part is small, I’m guilty of not following my own advice.

Other than rot, there are a few signs that eggplant is past its prime. First is when the smooth skin has turned wrinkly. Another when the flesh has become soft, mushy, or spongy. In both cases, it’s probably best to get rid of the veggie.

If everything about the eggplant seems to be okay, it’s most likely perfectly safe to eat.

Why Are My Eggplants Seedy – What To Do For Seedy Eggplants

Cutting into an eggplant only to find the center full of seeds is a disappointment because you know the fruit isn’t at its peak of flavor. Eggplant seediness is usually due to improper harvesting or harvesting at the wrong time. Read on to find out how to avoid bitter, seedy eggplants.

Why are My Eggplants Seedy?

If you find too many seeds in an eggplant, it’s time to fine-tune your eggplant harvesting practices. Timing is everything when it comes to harvesting the perfect eggplant. Once the flowers bloom, the fruit develops and matures quickly. Eggplants are at their peak for only a few days, so check for ripe fruit every time you visit the garden.

When eggplants are ripe and at their best, the skin will be glossy and tender. Once they lose their shine, the skin toughens and the seeds inside the fruit begin maturing. You can also harvest them while they are small. Baby eggplants are a gourmet treat, and harvesting the small fruit keeps them from becoming overripe if you have to be away from your garden for a few days. Harvesting young fruit stimulates the plant to produce more fruit, so don’t be concerned about reducing the yield if you harvest small fruit.

Clip the fruit from the plant with hand pruners, leaving an inch of stem attached. Take care not to get stabbed by the thorny ends of the stem. Once harvested, eggplants keep for only a few days, so use them as soon as possible. You can test harvested eggplants to see if they are too old by pressing on the skin. If an indention remains when you remove your finger, the fruit is probably too old to use. The skin bounces back on fresh eggplants.

Since eggplants quickly go from the peak of perfection to old and seedy and have a short shelf life, you might find yourself with more eggplants than you can use from time to time. Friends and neighbors will enjoy taking those excess eggplants off your hands, especially when they discover the superiority of fresh-picked fruit over grocery store eggplants. The fruit doesn’t freeze or can well on its own, but you can freeze it cooked in your favorite casserole or sauce recipes.

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