These pretty lavender-coloured eggplants look like long fat fingers, a shape which makes them super easy to prepare. There are actually many varieties of long eggplant from the Orient, so you might spot some with a mottled skin, some pale lilac and some a richer purple. Their skin is often thinner than the better-known, darker-skinned eggplant, which means they’re great for stir-frying, sauteing and other quick-cook methods. The creamy flesh holds its shape rather well, too. You can commonly buy this Oriental variety of eggplant at greengrocers’, Asian grocers’, and at markets, and they’re happy to be grown at home if you live in warmer climes. They’re often just called long eggplant in the shops, but this label is confusing as there are other varieties of long eggplant with different characteristics.
5 facts about eggplant:
- All eggplant varieties probably originated around India and Sri Lanka.
- It’s a fruit, a member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. A sensitivity or allergy to consuming plants in this family is quite common.
- Eggplants are primarily water – over 90%.
- China is the biggest eggplant grower in the world.
- It’s brain food – a property called nasunin found in eggplant has been shown to protect brain cell membranes from free radical damage.
Buying and storing:
- Look for firm, glossy smooth-skinned eggplants with no wrinkling. An eggplant is good for eating if, when you push the skin with your thumb, dents but springs back. Store in a cool dry place – in a bag if in the fridge – and use within a few days.
5 simple ideas with Oriental eggplant:
- For a simple side dish, slice eggplants in half lengthways, brush with sesame oil and grill on the barbecue. Scatter over toasted sesame seeds and some finely chopped garlic chives and squeeze over a little lemon juice.
- Slice eggplant into rounds a couple of inches thick and braise with pork belly in a Chinese-style stock with hoisin and soy sauces, star anise and Shaoxing wine. Serve with steamed rice.
- Sweet with creamy flesh, it works beautifully in a summery roast vegetable salad with kumara, chargrilled capsicum, and rocket, tossed with mint leaves and dressed with aioli.
- Eggplant and miso is a favourite combination in Japan, where this variety is common. Julienne the eggplant and simmer in a combination of miso paste, sugar and water until tender and serve with steamed rice or soba noodles.
- Use instead of regular eggplant in a refreshing ratatouille served cold alongside barbecued meats.