With a texture and savory flavor more similar to a mushroom than a vegetable, eggplant is incredibly versatile and serves as a perfect meat alternative packed with umami.
Flavor profile: Somewhat mild on its own, eggplant has a spongy texture that takes on the flavors of what you cook it with, but overall it tends to be very savory, more like a mushroom than a vegetable, and gives dishes that filling umami flavor that you look for in a meal.
Uses: Eggplant is incredibly versatile, common dishes include eggplant parmesan roasted in the oven like a lasagne, baba ganoush (similar to hummus), sautéed sticky eggplant served with white rice, roasted stuffed eggplant, and grilled eggplant.
Pairs with: Garlic, chilis, soy sauce, rice, cheese, fresh herbs, ground meat and/or nuts, etc.
Storage: Eggplant do fine being stored in the fridge in a bag or container that retains their moisture. Left out in the fridge they tend to get wrinkly and dehydrate fairly quickly.
Other names: Known commonly in Europe as Aubergine and in Spanish as Berenjena, the word "Eggplant" came about in reference to a squatter white variety that looks like a big egg. It's Latin name is Solanum melongena, close to the Italian word for Eggplant, Melanzana.
Nutrients: Eggplant is known for its vitamin and mineral content and low caloric value. Often used as a meat substitute, eggplant does contain some protein, almost a gram for every cooked cup of eggplant.
History: Eggplant is said to have originated in India and China and later spread throughout Europe and Northern Africa before making its way to the Americas, however there are many different species of eggplant that each have their own tale to tell. There is a vast diversity of eggplant varieties that have been domesticated all around the world, all varying greatly in shape, size, and color.
Why it's a great crop: Eggplant is a heat-loving crop usually grown in tropical or subtropical regions of the world, or in the hottest season of Mediterranean regions. The plants can be quite prolific once temperatures are consistently high, and compared to other solanaceous crops like tomatoes, eggplant has a longer shelf life. After tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and tobacco, eggplants are the fifth most important Solanaceous crop grown in the world.