Do you know how to choose the best eggplant? Over the years as much as I’ve enjoyed eggplant, I have to admit sometimes the ones I bought and cooked tasted bitter. I tried different ways to take the bitter out, like salting down the slices very heavily and leaving them to sweat on towels for awhile, then washing the salt off, patting the slices dry like my Italian boss told me to do years ago, but the intermittent bitter eggplant was always a problem. Now maybe a lot of you are a lot smarter than I in these things, but until recently I never knew how to choose consistently good, not bitter, eggplants. Not so anymore.
When we were in Seattle at the famous Pike Street Market I happened to see a woman from one of the colorful veggie stalls in the middle of the sidewalk talking about eggplants. I wiggled my way into the other 20 or 30 other people gathered around eager to see what she had to say about eggplant. I’d never really thought about it before, and everything she said made sense. Like almost everything else Mother Nature designed, eggplants are either male or female.
Which one is best? If you’re a woman and reading this, chances are that you insisted the female is best, and vice-versa if you’re a man. Well ladies, my sentiments are more with you than men overall, but in this case it turns out the male is best. You see nature designed the females to be more in tune with reproducing seeds than in tasting good. So in the case of eggplant (and other fruits and veggies), more seeds are more likely to result in more babies to propagate the species.
Female eggplants, therefore, have more seeds. Seeds are bitter on purpose so as not to attract seed-eaters. I mean, life is hard enough for females of every kind without having to worry about a predators wanting you for your seeds, right?! As a rule, though not always, they tend to be a little more round than the male. Hey, is that a coincidence or what? Have I confused you yet? Need an example? Have a look as this:
See the one on the left? See how the bellybutton looks like a slit? While the one on the right has a definite round-shaped mark? Okay, the one on the left is the girl, the other one is a boy. Simple, right?
Not always. Some, like this one, are harder to tell than others. If you fish around in the bin, comparing as you check out different bellybuttons, you’ll find it easier to make a final decision, just as I did when making my choice.
See? These two are much easier to tell apart. Yep, that’s the female on the left and the male on the right. Soooooooo, we’ll just leave the little lady there to incubate her seeds or let some other shopper take her home.
Not convinced yet? Proof, as they say, of the pudding Errrrr, here’s the proof. This is the boy we choose, and consumed last night in a wonderful eggplant parmigiano. Hardly any seeds at all. If you’re already expert in all these things and still reading, thanks for humoring me and finished the post. For you others who haven’t been subjected to an eggplant lecture before, bon appetit! And remember to leave a few boys for me, okay?