IN SEASON: EGGPLANT

What’s Fresh,
What’s Local

SUMMER

inSeasonEggplant
Photograph: Carole Topalian

VEGETABLES

Beans • Beets • Broccoli • Cabbage • Carrots
Cauliflower • Celery • Collard Greens • Corn
Cucumber • Eggplant • Garlic • Herbs • Leeks • Lettuce
Mustard Greens • Onions • Peas • Peppers • Potatoes
Radishes • Rhubarb • Spinach • Squash • Swiss Chard
Tomatoes • Turnips • Zucchini

FRUITS

Apples • Blackberries • Blueberries • Cantaloupes
Cherries • Currants • Grapes • Peaches
Pears • Plums • Prunes • Raspberries
Strawberries • Watermelon

A few summers ago, when I was working at a farm, there was one crop that overwhelmed us all. Was it peaches, you ask? No way. Cucumbers? Nope.Tomatoes? Don’t be silly.

It was eggplant. Striped, white, and every shade of purple, they appeared in the field as plentiful and round as Christmas ornaments in department store windows the day after Thanksgiving, and we just couldn’t keep up with the glut. A few weeks into the onslaught the CSA members threw up their hands in defeat and even I sent more to the compost than I’d like to admit.

Nearly any other summer produce item can be quickly chopped and thrown into a salad for dinner, but eggplant requires a little more effort to morph from ingredient to dinner. Nobody wants to heat oil or turn on the oven for a pan of eggplant Parmesan when temperatures are climbing near the triple digits. Despite this, we shouldn’t give up on eggplant.

Though usually thought of as a vegetable, the eggplant is, botanically speaking, a fruit. Also known as aubergines, eggplants are indigenous to Asia, but just like their relatives tomatoes and potatoes, they have spread far and wide. Today, eggplants lend their creamy, crispy or silky texture to cuisines from all over the world.

Eggplant soaks up flavors like a sponge and its international travels have made it a chameleon in the kitchen. Fried eggplant is perfection in a falafel sandwich. Eggplant provides a blank canvas for sweet raisins and sharp vinegar in Sicilian caponata. It shows up in Greek moussaka, fish-fragrant in Sichuan cuisine or slow-cooked with tomatoes for saucy melanzane affogate. Here are a few internationally inspired recipes to help you tackle this year’s eggplant season.

RECIPES

Balsamic Grilled Eggplant with Feta, Parsley and Mint

Indian-Inspired Eggplant Curry

Charred Eggplant Dip

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