Here's Why You Need to Try Japanese and Chinese Eggplants

Who knew there were over 10 varieties of eggplant?

Chinese Eggplant and Japanese Eggplant
Photo: Getty Images

Is an eggplant a fruit or a vegetable? If you said "vegetable" (like most people would), you're wrong. Not only is an eggplant considered a fruit, but it's actually classified as a berry. That's just the first of many things you probably don't know about eggplants.

Eggplants are one of the most delicious and versatile ingredients you can cook with. They can be fried, baked, pickled, stewed, pureed, and even stuffed. And just like tomatoes (also a fruit!), eggplants are part of the nightshade family. While you may be a big fan of popular dishes like eggplant parmesan and rollatini, there are so many varieties of eggplant grown around the world, and they all look and taste different.

Another interesting thing about eggplant is its flavor and texture. Most raw eggplants taste bitter because of the seeds, but when cooked, they become soft, savory, and soak up sauces and oils. That's why they taste so good in dishes like pasta with sauce, Moussaka, and Ratatouille.

If you're an eggplant lover, it might be time for you to explore all of the different types available to you. If you haven't tried Japanese or Chinese eggplant, add them to your grocery list. Here's how they differ from eggplants you're more familiar with.

Japanese Eggplants

What they look like: Japanese eggplants are short and thin with delicate dark purple skin and dark-colored stems.

When/where they're grown: Japanese eggplants are available all year round, but their peak season is summer through fall. In addition to Asia, Japanese eggplants are grown in Europe, South America, and the U.S.

How to cook them: Japanese eggplants have a thin skin and sponge-like texture which quickly absorbs sauces and flavors. They also have a slightly sweeter taste which pairs well with miso, soy sauce, and ginger. Try them in this miso eggplant dip or roast them with miso and sesame seeds for a tasty side dish.

Nutritional value: Japanese eggplants are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and dietary fiber.

Chinese Eggplant

What they look like: Chinese eggplants are long, thin, and sometimes crooked. They each have different color skin, ranging from violet to bright purple.

When/where they're grown: Chinese eggplants are available year-round. In addition to Asia, Chinese eggplants are grown in Europe, Canada, and the U.S.

How to cook them: Unlike most other kinds, Chinese eggplants are nearly seedless which makes them slightly sweet and less bitter. They're most commonly baked or featured in a stir-fry because they're tender and cook quickly. Cook them up in this vegetarian eggplant and tofu stir-fry or try this savory dish of curried eggplant with tomatoes and basil.

Nutritional value: Chinese eggplants contain manganese, potassium, and vitamin B6. They also have anthocyanins which give the eggplant a deep purple color and are known for antioxidant properties.

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