Common Purple eggplant is characterized by its size, shape and coloring. Fruits have a trademark glossy, black-purple skin, are oval and oblong in shape, often growing up to ten inches long and wider at the blossom end. They have a characteristic green calyx and a green stem or a leaf shooting out from the base of the stem, wrapping around the top of the smooth-skinned fruit. The flesh is cream colored with a spongy-firm texture. Though the size of Purple eggplant varies once harvested, it is more common to see large robust fruits.
Purple eggplant is available year-round with a peak season during the summer months.
Common Purple eggplants are a Western type eggplant of the species, Solanum melongena and are known as part of the Giganteum Group. With thousands of varieties of eggplants in existence, there are incalculable variabilities throughout the species. Common Purple eggplants are the only type that are truly domesticated, absolutely displaced from their wild ancestors; they have never existed in the wild and due to human selection, construct and morphology, they should always be classified as separate from any wild progenitors.
Eggplants such as the Purple that feature deep purple hued skin are known to be rich in anthocyanins which are not only responsible for the purple pigment of its skin but also offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that anthocyanins can aid in promoting healthy cell function, in prevention of cardiovascular disease and are being studied for their ability to ward off certain forms of cancer.
Purple eggplant's textures vary dramatically depending on how it is cooked, how much oil is used and of course, when it is harvested. Overly mature fruits will contain developed seeds and ultimately maintain that bitterness eggplant is associated with. Eggplant absorbs flavors and soaks up oil like a sponge. Beware as this can change the flavor and texture in an instant as well as increase the fat and sodium content dramatically. Best applications are grilling, pan frying and roasting. When adding eggplant to a preparation rich in oil, butter or soy sauce try roasting eggplants first to prevent them from soaking up too much of the sauce. Complimentary pairings include other summer vegetables such as tomatoes, squashes and peppers. Other pairings include stewed meats, grilled and baked fish, chicken, chickpeas, lentils, herbs such as basil, mint, cilantro and parsley as well as cheeses such as fresh cow's milk and aged sheep's cheese. Choose smaller firm fruits, a sign of youth and freshness. To store, keep Purple eggplants in a cool dry place and use ideally within two to three days of purchase.