The incredible aubergine

The garden egg is a versatile fruit - this is the eggplant or aubergine. The only thing it doesn't seem to be good at is being eaten raw.

Most of use know the Aubergine as the eggplant. A large, almost bowling pin shaped, deep purple vegetable. I hate to break it to you, but the eggplant is a fruit that is cooked like a vegetable. The skin is full of antidoxidants. Just be careful, that purple will dye your teeth gray. The skins also come in a variety of colors. The American Eggplant is very large, and can come in white, green, purple-black, purple and a yellowish hue. The flesh is white and spongy.

Japanese eggplants are slender, 3 of these equals 1 American eggplant. The skin is thinner and sweeter in taste. The colors can come in pink, white, green, lavender and of course purple. I prefer the Purple zebra Eggplant, a purple Brinjal with delicate white strips streaking down its length. The preference has to do with artsy displays of food, and not so much on flavors. Each eggplant offers its own distinction.

While we are on the topic of taste, you might have found yourself biting into a tough, bitter eggplant. Do not fear, we are here to fix that problem. If you are growing your own Garden Eggs, eat them asap. The longer you wait, the older the eggplant gets, the nastier it becomes. All of us, either gardener or consumer should know what to look for when choosing that perfect Brinjal. You want the males. It might seem odd that you want the boys when you constantly read about females are oh so better, or the fact that many plants do not have genders when it comes to the veggie world. But in this case, we must shun the little women.

When choosing the perfect eggplant, look for a smooth skin, plump and firm body, and smaller in stature. Flip it over and look for a shallow round indention on the bottom. Yes, we are still looking at eggplants. If that indention is present, congrats! You have a boy. The girls will have a deep dash indention. If you want you can choose a heavier bodied eggplant, or a female, but just remember, the heavier they are (or girl) the more seeds they have, they more seeds they have, the bitter they are.

Once you have your precious Aubergine home, it is time to store it.I highly suggest that you only purchase eggplant the day you plan on using it. You can buy it the day before, and wrap it in a plain paper bag and place it in your fridges crisper drawer.

Now for the cookin' and eatin' part. The Garden Egg is about 95% water, this makes it difficult to do anything but grilling it. By using Kosher salt, you can slice up your eggplant, place it in a colander, and suck up a lot of that moisture. Sprinkle the Kosher salt over the eggplant, and allow it to sit for 30 minutes, wipe off with a dry towel, then use another clean dry towel to sop up any extra moisture. The thickness of you eggplant when you slice it will affect how long it takes to dry out, and how it might fall about while cooking. Dice up any eggplant you plan to sauté, cut into thin slices for broiling, and thicker ones for the grill. There is no need to dry out any eggplant the is destined for the grill.

As I mentioned, the eggplant is rather versatile when it comes to the types of items you can create. Anything from an eggplant spread, to Creole stuffed, ratatouille, to turning your eggplant into a pasta like in this aubergine pasta recipe. And of course we can not forget the classic eggplant Parmesan. If you are wanting to preserve your Aubergine for later use, the only recommended method is to cut it into strips, blanch, dry and freeze.

Next time you are in the store, try not to turn your nose up at the freakishly large berry. Pick one up and give it a try. You might be surprised at what it can do.