When shopping for eggplants, do you know what to look for to guarantee good results? If you want to buy eggplants because you have never tried them, this article will help you make smart shopping choices and get the best value for your money.
Eggplants are delicious and healthy with nutrients that the body needs to function optimally. When it comes to shopping and picking out produce, there are some little tips to ensure that the fruits and vegetables you buy are fresh and priced affordably.
This guide will give you valuable information on where to buy eggplants, and how to choose the freshest food. The next time you decide to make a recipe and need to buy eggplants, you can refresh your memory before heading to the store.
While everyone assumes that eggplants are a vegetable, you might be surprised to know they are actually classified as a fruit because of the seeds. Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is very popular in Middle Eastern dishes, as well as Asian and Indian cuisines. They are typically cooked with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices.
Per 1-cup Serving:
- Calories: 132
- Carbohydrates: 32
- Fiber: 19g, 75% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 6g
- Fat: 0g
Vitamins and Minerals:
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- Folate (Vitamin B9)
- Vitamin K (helps with blood clotting)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
Where Do Eggplants Originate From?
Eggplants were originally found in Asia, where they have grown for centuries. They were brought to Africa and parts of Europe, and then slowly made their way to the US and other parts of the world. They are a favorite vegetable of vegetarians and vegans as a meat substitute in soups and stews. China, Japan, Turkey, Italy, and Egypt are the leading growers of eggplant.
The Best Time to Buy Eggplants
July to October is the best time to buy eggplants because it is when they are the freshest. They take approximately 100 to 120 days to maturity from seed to harvest, so you want to get them fresh and use them right away. Eggplant tends to get bitter as it ages.
Varieties of Eggplant
Chinese and Japanese eggplants are long and thin, and Indian eggplants are smaller and egg-shaped.
Many varieties of eggplants grow in different parts of the world and may be light to dark purple, large or small, round or oblong, or elongated and narrow.
Some varieties are light purple with white streaks, or small and green like the eggplants that grow in Thailand. No matter what type you buy, they all should be used when they are fresh.
What to Look for When You Buy Eggplants
Appearance: the color should be light to dark purple (for most varieties), with a shiny, smooth skin. You can test the ripeness of the eggplant by pressing a finger into the skin. If it leaves a little indentation, the fruit is ripe. Avoid those with wrinkled skin or brown spots.
They should not be bruised or have soft spots. This means they are old and past their prime. They would not taste good. The more time that has passed since harvesting, the more bitter they become.
This may be why some people don’t like the taste of eggplant, because they bought one that wasn’t fresh and it was bitter. If possible, buy the smaller, thinner variety because they often have fewer seeds and are less likely to be bitter.
Alternatives to Fresh Varieties
If you are unable to buy eggplants that are fresh, you may be able to get frozen or canned varieties.
These are often prepared in a sauce to be used over rice or pasta and may be an acceptable alternative during times when fresh is not available, like during the winter or early spring.
Check the canned food section of your grocery store or from other sources like Asian markets.
Where To Buy Them
When shopping for eggplants and other produce, the best places to go are your local grocery store, neighborhood markets, farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and online specialty stores.
Another option, that is not available in all areas, is produce delivery services. You purchase a box with a combination of fruits and vegetables and are charged by the box size or weight.
Many of these have a subscription service that you can order on a set delivery schedule every week, month, or as often as you choose.
How to Get the Best Price
To get the best prices on produce for the money, buy when everything is in season. Do a comparison shop around some of your local grocery stores to see the price per pound at each store.
Don’t forget to check with local farmer’s markets as well. There probably won’t be a big difference in price, but it’s worth it to pay a little more for fresh, organic vegetables. You may get a lower price if you wait, but then you may buy eggplants that are past their prime.
The average price for eggplant is $1.07 to $1.19 per pound.
Eggplants are a very nutritious and delicious addition to your daily diet. They are easy to cook and will fit into any eating plan, whether you’re a meat eater or vegetarian. Buy them when they’re young and firm and experiment with different ways to cook them.