The first eggplants were small and white,
shaped like an egg. Until recently it was difficult to find these small
eggplants in American markets, but the explosion of vegetable varieties
available today has happily included some of the eggplants that have,
in the past, been found only in Japan, India and Italy.
While the Middle Eastern cuisines embraced it, Europeans were extremely
wary of the eggplant, just as they had been of the tomato and the
potato before it. Whether the "mad apple" was actually thought to drive
you mad or simply made you crazy with love for it, the eggplant was
approached with caution. Small amounts of it, combined perhaps with
tomato and pepper, were eaten as a love portion, and it wasn't until
the nineteenth century that full use was made of it - especially in
Among the types of eggplant you might find in the market is Japanese
eggplant, which is 6 to 8 inches long, thin, and white or deep purple.
Chinese eggplant is shaped the same, but larger. Italian eggplant is
generally small, more round than oblong shaped, and can be dark purple,
light purple, white, or white and purple striped. The large familiar
globe eggplant is also available in white now. And if you have an
extremely well-stocked greengrocer, you may find Thai or Indian
eggplant, which are small and egg shaped in green, purple, green and
white and white. Try them all. Most varieties are interchangeable, but
the size will depend on the presentation of the dish. The small
eggplant varieties, which would be useless for stuffing, generally seem to hold
together better in baked dishes. And I like the Japanese variety for
stir-frying, because I prefer all the pieces to have some skin on them
and few or very small seeds.
Large eggplant, left too long on the vine, develop a lot of hard,
unappetizing seeds. There was once a theory that there were male and
female vegetables, the females being full of seeds. It isn't true.
However, and no one needs to examine his or her eggplant for deep
indentations in the blossom end, which were thought to indicate a
female eggplant. The truth is that over maturity is the culprit. For
that reason it is best to look for small to medium-size vegetables, and
avoid any that weigh much more than 1.25 pounds. Buy more eggplants
rather than a bigger one.
Eggplants are fat free and low in calories, but are very filling,
making tem good diet fare. They contain small amounts of vitamin C,
phosphorus, and calcium. They are suitable for simple healthy vegetable