I always knew there were different varieties of eggplant. Even your ho-hum grocery store usually carries at least two. But on a recent trip to the farmers’ market, I was completely flabbergasted at just HOW MANY varieties there were. In the process of oogling the various shapes and colors of eggplant, we began thinking how wonderful it would be to see what the differences in flavor and texture these varieties produced. So we grabbed some bags and started collecting. All in all, we acquired 7 different kinds of eggplant. We nixed the run-of-the-mill purple globe eggplants in favor of the more unique ones.
If anyone out there is an expert on eggplant varieties feel free to butt in, but here’s what I’ve gathered from my intensive research (all I want is a picture and a name! How hard is that to find?). The best I could do was to determine that the long skinny fellas are Asian (whether they are Chinese or Japanese is up for debate), the one that looks like a giant purple tomato is Sicilian. The various light purple stripey ones are probably Italian, but I really couldn’t say. And the little dark purple ones? No clue.
For our experiment we picked out a tasty-sounding recipe, a pan seared eggplant with a ginger honey glaze. The plan was to cook all the eggplant in the same way, then perform a taste test to determine the best tasting aubergine.
To keep everything straight (and since I didn’t know what each of the varieties were called) I drew pictures of each eggplant on post its. We tried to keep the post its with each variety from the sink, to the cutting board, to the pan, to the plate.
We cooked two full pans worth of eggplant, the smaller pieces in one pan and the larger ones (that would take longer to cook) in another. And again, the post its stayed stuck above the stove in the same order as the eggplant went into the pan.
The final product, lightly browned, melt in your mouth, and drizzled with a sweet and tangy glaze.
The verdict? Inconclusive. Turns out all eggplant tastes pretty much the same. At least to us it did. We both thought the Sicilian (tomato-esque) eggplant, shown above, had the best texture – it was much firmer than the others and didn’t turn to mush when cooked. But we could definitely taste a bit of bitterness in it, as well as a few of the other varieties. Overall, my favorite were the purple Asian eggplants, Taylor liked the light lavender ones. But that’s only if you forced us to choose one. No one kind was significantly better or worse than the others. Should you take my word that these two varieties are superior to the others? Probably not.
And the recipe, in case you’re interested, is posted here. Taylor enjoyed it, but I felt the glaze was too strong. Too much ginger or pomegranate, maybe? It was almost too much for me to take.
So what’s next? A summer squash experiment, maybe? Heirloom tomatoes? Though maybe we should work on developing the intricacies of our palette before performing any more taste tests, heh. Actually being able to distinguish one from another would be a nice skill to have.