Eggplants belong to the nightshade family (Solanaceae) of vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. They grow in a much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

Selection and storage

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. The skin should be smooth and shiny, and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. To test for ripeness, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe. If an indentation remains, it is not. Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. 

Preparation and serving methods

When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

"Sweating" the eggplant: 

To tenderize the flesh's texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking. Rinsing the eggplant after "sweating" will remove most of the salt.