Eggplant: It’s purple, healthy and easy to prepare

Adding a splash of purple to your diet brings variety and nutrition.

Eggplant is available year-round, but according to the Michigan Availability guide, the peak of its season is usually in July through October.  During this seasonal peak, eggplant will be popping up in Michigan farmers markets and roadside stands. Eggplant is a vibrant purple that is typically oval in shape with shiny skin.  Inside it has a cream-colored spongy flesh.  Grocery stores do carry eggplant throughout the year, but they will likely taste better when they are in season.

When selecting an eggplant at the store or farmers market, look for one that has skin that feels slightly resistant and taut, but not spongy or extremely hard.  In general, the smaller the eggplant, the sweeter it will be.  It is best to use the eggplant when the stem and cap are still greenish in color and look fresh.  If the eggplant is not used immediately, store the eggplant by wrapping it in plastic and refrigerating it for up to 2 days. 

Nutritionally, eggplant is high in fiber and contains numerous phytonutrients that help to prevent cancer by blocking the formation of free radicals (cancer causing cells) in the body.  Other vitamins include vitamin C, thiamin (B1), folate, niacin, and minerals such as magnesium, copper and manganese.  Eggplant is also known to be rich in potassium, which helps maintain water balance and regulate blood pressure.   

Cooking eggplant is the most common way to eat it; however it can be eaten raw.  To prepare and cook eggplant, be sure to wash the outside just prior to use.  Cut the top and bottom off, and then cut it into the desired size and shape.  This can be cubes, strips or discs.  The skin is edible, so you can choose to eat it or remove it before cooking. 

One tip for cooking eggplant is to remove as much water as possible.  To do this, you can salt the eggplant (after cutting it into your preferred shape), and allow it to sit for a few minutes.  Rinse away the salt and pat dry to remove excess water before cooking.  Eggplant does have the ability to absorb flavor and juices from other ingredients it is mixed with.  It also provides a meaty texture for many vegetarian dishes.

Michigan produce, such as eggplant, will provide consumers with many options for fresh and healthy food.  Michigan State University Extension has prepared several fact sheets on the Michigan Fresh site to assist consumers with their selection, use and preservation of the many healthy choices available.  The eggplant fact sheet is just one example.  A home growing tip sheet is also available for eggplant. 

Another resource to assist you in choosing healthy food is the ChooseMyPlate campaign from the USDA. It assists consumers with amounts needed and tips on making sure that half of the food plate is made up of a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

Healthy recipes for eggplant are readily available on the internet. One recipe site that is particularly useful is the USDA recipe finder.  Simply enter the ingredient in the search function and nutritious recipes that include that ingredient will pop up. Also included in the results are the nutrition values and costs associated with the recipe.  This site will also assist in creating a shopping list based on the recipes selected. 

Olive Oil Roasted Eggplant with Lemon Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

  1.  Preheat oven to 450°F and lightly grease baking sheet.
  2. Slice eggplant into discs and place onto baking sheet.
  3. Brush each piece with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast in preheated oven until softened and golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Serve hot.

Cost

Per recipe: $1.51
Per serving:  $0.38

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