Eggplants are an incredibly versatile fruit used in a wide range of cuisines and dishes. The big, bulbous, purple variety that most Australians are familiar with – also known as aubergines – originated in the Indian subcontinent before spreading across Europe. Despite its popularity in western culture, it’s not commonly used in Asian cuisine, with other varietals proving more popular east of India.
Japanese and Chinese eggplants are a prime example of this. Though they’re widely used throughout Asia, many Australians don’t know anything about them. Both are longer and skinnier than the aubergine (the Chinese variety is also lighter in colour) and are thin skinned with extra creamy flesh. They are fantastic grilled and in stir-fries.
The Thai eggplant is used throughout Thai cooking, bobbing up in curries, salads, soups and stir-fries. Their mild taste makes them excellent flavour carriers. Smaller than many of its cousins and with light green skin and a seedy interior, they sometimes resemble unripened figs.
Pea eggplants are the smallest of the eggplant varietals. More the size of a marble than a pea, they are seen throughout Southeast Asia in a variety of dishes. They tend to burst when bitten into, so be careful if you’re serving them in a steaming hot curry.
Eggplants contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals including fibre, folate, potassium, manganese, vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as phosphorus, copper, thiamine, niacin, magnesium, and pantothenic acid. Need I go on?
With nutritional value like that, it’s no wonder eggplants have been shown to aid digestion and weight loss and improve bone and heart health. They’re also a fantastic source of phytonutrients, which have been linked with improved brain function.
Eggplants prefer hot conditions, so it’s best to plant them in summer. As they’re from the same family as tomatoes and potatoes, they share many of the same pests and diseases, so you won’t have to buy any exotic pesticides. And, they start cropping after 10–12 weeks and will continue to fruit as long as the weather is warm.
Eggplants are like a great all-rounder, just flat out good at everything. Go grab some today so you can try our favourite eggplant recipes!
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