Eggplant Love

A certain member of the ESY staff, who shall remain nameless, claims to dislike eggplant.  I know many others feel this way, and I’m asking you to reconsider this versatile and beloved vegetable.

It is true that eggplant has a very high moisture content, containing over 90% water, and it can sometimes taste a little bitter. However, eggplant also contains beneficial fiber, B-vitamins, vitamin C, folate, manganese, potassium, antioxidants- and it’s known to improve circulation. The eggplant is egg-shaped, a characteristic from which its name is derived, and comes in a variety of colors from glossy deep purple to lavender, jade, or white.  The inside flesh is creamy white and spongy, and each variety varies slightly in taste and texture.  The bitter taste is believed to be caused by alkaloid compounds and becomes more pronounced in older eggplants.  To counteract the bitterness, some people salt eggplant, claiming that the salt draws out moisture and removes the bitter juice.  According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, it may be that the salting doesn’t actually remove the bitterness so much as it decreases our perception of it.  Either way, eggplant is highly perishable and tastes best, as most things do, harvested and cooked fresh from of the garden.

Looking back on a bit of eggplant history, it is believed that eggplant first grew wild in India and was later cultivated in China.  It was then introduced to Africa and Europe and brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers.  As I mentioned, eggplant is versatile.  It can be used in many different recipes, such as Indian curry, Chinese stir-fry, ratatouille, Mediterranean baba ghanoush- even pickled or as a pizza topping.  Due to its spongy texture, eggplant will absorb and take on the flavors of the other ingredients you combine it with.

Peak season for eggplant is in August and September, though we still have plenty of eggplant growing at the Edible Schoolyard.  Fresh eggplant can also be found for sale at the farmer’s market but not for much longer, so take advantage of it now.  Below is a favorite Italian-inspired recipe for eggplant rolls.  They’re delicious, easy to make, and will even freeze well.  Give the eggplant some love!  – Jennifer

Eggplant Rolls

2 medium to large eggplant, sliced into rounds 1/8 inch thick

Mozzarella cheese, ¾ cup shredded

Ricotta cheese, 2 cups

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, ½ cup

Basil, ½ cup chopped

Olive oil

Garlic, crushed

Salt & pepper

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Marinate eggplant rounds in olive oil and crushed garlic for about 30 minutes.
  3. Place eggplant in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until lightly brown and tender.  You may need to flip them and cook for 10 minutes on the other side if they don’t look tender.
  4. Meanwhile, combine cheeses and basil in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When the eggplant is cooked and cool enough to handle, place about ¼  cup of the filling in each eggplant slice and roll it up.  Continue this process until you’ve used all of your eggplant and filling.  At this point, you could package the rolls to freeze for later use.
  6. Place each roll into an oiled baking dish and pour your favorite tomato sauce on top.  Bake for another 20- 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

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