This last week I was visiting my favorite indoor farmer’s market and I ran across the guys from Ely Farms dropping off a shipment of peppers and other goodies. As I was talking to them, I noticed they had a large crate of eggplants, but they weren’t purple. They were white. I inquired and they told me that this was an experiment they were trying out and hadn’t really done much with them. Unfortunately they hadn’t had time to compare them to purple and couldn’t tell me much, but they did say that if I took one, they’d be very interested in finding out what I thought.
Before we get to it, did you ever wonder how the big purple eggplant we know and love got its name? Well, it turns out that while we call it “eggplant” in the US (and Canada, Australia and New Zealand), many other countries either refer to the berry (yes, it is actually a berry)as an “aubergine” or “brinjal.” The name “eggplant” came about because the cultivar (type) that was grown/eaten in the 1700-1800s was white and about the size of a goose egg. So, even though the common eggplant we eat is now purple, the name stuck. Neat, huh? Okay, so, onto checking out the white eggplant.
So, the first thing you notice is that it is white… very white. It is also a little smaller than the standard purple eggplant, but that isn’t a bad thing. Upon slicing it I noticed that it seemed to have less seeds (though they were bigger) than a normal eggplant and it also had bright white flesh, instead of the greenish hue that one would expect. The skin was very tough, unlike its purple cousin and should be removed before eating (this is why I always keep a peeler around). The flesh was actually almost sweet and not bitter at all, which is awesome… no more sweating before cooking! If I had to describe the taste, I’d say it was a cross between a sweated eggplant and a cucumber. Very, very good (I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a piece of eggplant raw before). Another thing I noticed is that the flesh didn’t turn brown when it sat out, like a normal eggplant would. It stayed its white color, which was very nice (while normal eggplant still tastes good, the discoloring is never fun to look at).
I ended up slicing half the eggplant up and using it in my Eggplant & Tofu Parmigiana (I skipped the sweating step and skinned it first) and the other half went into what has become a weekly dish for me, “Summer Gratin.” I haven’t posted the recipe yet, as I had been tweaking it, but now that I think I have it how I want it, I shall be documenting it and posting it this coming week.
So, my conclusion is that not only are white eggplants good, I think they’re actually tastier (and more convenient) than their purple cousins. I’ll be sad when the season is over and I can’t pick any more up.