11 Types of Eggplants to Know (and Grow) This Summer
When sharing their thoughts on eggplants, my coworkers ran the gamut from "gross," and "pointless," to "one of my favorites!" Why is it that this vegetable (though, botanically speaking, it's actually a berry) is so divisive? Could it be it's spongey, meaty texture? Or it's bitter flavor?
If you're on the fence about eggplant, maybe you just haven't tried the right variety. There's actually a whole lot of diversity within this nightshade, and it's worth knowing some of the most common kinds of eggplants before peak eggplant season arrives (July to October). Maybe you'll even be lucky enough to come across some of the more rare, heirloom varieties at your local farmers' market this summer. Here are 11 of the most common types of eggplants, and how to cook them.
1. Chinese Eggplant
The Chinese eggplant — not to be confused with the similar-looking Japanese eggplant — has a long, narrow body with a light to mid-toned purple exterior and white flesh. Because it has fewer seeds that the familiar globe (American) variety, it's less bitter in taste.
Its relatively uniform, slender shape makes the Chinese eggplant perfect for slicing into rounds and sauteing, like in this Hot and Sour Chinese Eggplant. Or give them a try in this Eggplant with Garlic Sauce.
Fun fact: China is far and away the largest producer of eggplants, accounting for over 63 percent of the world's production, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
2. Fairy Tale Eggplant
These enchanting eggplants live up to their name. With a stunning purple and white striped exterior, fairy tale eggplants have a sweet and tender flesh. They take well to grilling, and thanks to their palm-sized proportions, they have a very quick cook time.
3. Globe/American Eggplant
If you grew up in the States, globe eggplants, also called American eggplants, are probably what you're used to. They're the kind you're most likely to find at the supermarket. They have a short, squatty shape and a deep purple color.
It's a great all-purpose eggplant, thanks to its meaty texture that makes it a great protein substitute (like in your classic eggplant Parmesan).
4. Graffiti/Zebra/Sicilian Eggplant
The graffiti eggplant (also called zebra or Sicilian eggplant), has a similar coloring to fairy tale eggplants, with its mottled purple and white striping. Because their seeds are small and their skin is thin, graffitis are great for eating whole or pureeing. Or use them anywhere you would globe eggplants.
5. Indian Eggplant
Also called baby eggplants, these adorable nightshades resemble grapes or cherries. They have a dark, reddish-purple color and a round shape. They're commonly used in Indian dishes like curry.
6. Italian Eggplant
Not to be confused with its doppelganger the globe eggplant, the Italian eggplant has a similar color and shape, but is slightly smaller and sweeter. Plus, it has a more tender flesh than it's meatier American counterpart. You can of course use it anywhere you would use globe eggplant, but we would also recommend using it in Italian dishes like eggplant caponata, parmigiana di melanzane, and more.
7. Japanese Eggplant
Similar to the Chinese eggplant, the Japanese eggplant has a slender, long shape, but it tends to have a deeper purple color. They cook quickly, making them excellent candidates for stir fries (try them in this Spicy Eggplant stir fry). Plus, their subtly-sweet flavor will meld nicely with any flavor pairing.
8. Little Green Eggplant
This is a plump, pale green eggplant, and its flesh takes on an extra creamy texture when cooked. In terms of flavor, it's very mild, so use it anyway you would standard eggplant.
9. Rosa Bianca Eggplant
Allrecipes senior editor Kimberly Holland feels especially passionate about these ombre eggplants, so we'll let her tell you about them: "If you've steered clear of eggplant because you loathe the bitterness that sometimes finds its way into the fibrous plant, you'll be happy to meet the Rosa Bianca Eggplant. This Sicilian variety has a very mild, delicate flesh, and the bitterness is just nowhere to be found. It's also quite cute, if the adorableness of your produce is important. I have a hard time finding this variety locally, but when I do, I snap it up." Their small stature makes Rosa Bianca eggplants excellent for grilling.
10. Thai Eggplant
Maybe the most atypical in appearance of all the eggplants on this list, the Thai eggplant looks like a tiny little watermelon — they have a green exterior (though it can also be white or pale yellow) with a pale-pink flesh. But don't be fooled by its adorable size, Thai eggplants actually have a bitter taste due to the plethora of seeds found in its flesh. It's recommended that you remove all the seeds before cooking. Thai eggplants can be stuffed, or diced and tossed in curries.
11. White Eggplant
There's quite a few white eggplant varieties out there, but what all of them have in common is their stark white skin. But on the inside, they're nearly identical to your standard eggplant. Actually, all eggplants used to be white, but over time they lost ground space to the more insect-resistant and drought-tolerant globe eggplant. Because of this, most white varieties available today are heirloom. Use white eggplant any way you would globe or Italian.
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