As a child, I often wondered what sort of monstrous creature would lay a huge, purple-black egg, for surely the eggplant was named after such an egg laid by such a creature. Imagine my relief, tinged with disappointment, when I eventually learned that the first eggplants, grown in China, were small, ivory, and egg-shaped, with a delicate pearly skin–just like an ordinary egg.
Eggplant Far and Wide
From China, the eggplant spread all over the world, gradually acquiring the deep, lustrous colors we are most familiar with today. Today, the eggplant has come full circle, with local farmers growing many of the long, narrow Asian varieties, which range in color from solid purple, lavender, or green to striated shades of purple and white. These eggplants have tender skins and slightly sweet flesh, and cook up quickly and easily on the grill or in a pan.
Low-Calorie, High Nutritional Value
Eggplant does have a sponge-like capacity to soak up oil, but that shouldn’t keep you away from a vegetable that has only 25 calories per half cup serving, and is extremely mineral rich with healthy doses of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium.
Eggplant is the main ingredient in many popular dishes around the world: caponata and eggplant parmigiana in Italy; ratatouille in France; baba ghanoush in the Middle East, and grilled with soy sauce or garlic in many Asian countries. So find some fresh, glossy-skinned eggplants from a local farmer, and give these recipes a try.
Sauteed Asian Eggplant
2 or 3 Asian eggplants (about a pound)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon shrimp paste (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, and then into 2 inch pieces.
- Heat the oil, and then fry the garlic and shrimp paste for about 2 minutes.
- Add the eggplant and soy sauce. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Can be added to pasta or rice as a meal, or eaten alone as a side.
Seasonal Cook’s Notes: You can counter the tendency eggplant has for soaking up oil by coating slices in a thin batter or crumb mixture before frying. Or start by sauteeing eggplant with a few tablespoons of oil, and then add water or broth, and braise until it’s meltingly tender and delicious.
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main course.
Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.