Eggplant Taste Test
Last weekend, Tina and I went to the Multicultural Harvest Festival in San Jose, CA. This event took place at the Emma Prusch Farm Park. Several of the booths featured produce or exotic fruits that were grown during the year at the Park. One booth in particular displayed several varieties of eggplants. They grew 41 different varieties to see which types of eggplants would grow well in San Jose. It turns out that 38 of the 41 varieties did well, according to the woman manning the booth. While we were admiring the various shapes and colors that egg plants come in, a woman asked Tina if she wanted to take some home (this was late in the day). We jumped at the opportunity and went home with four different types of eggplants. I unfortunately, did not manage to capture the names of all the varieties. Even so, I prepared a taste test.
We came home with a Pandora Striped Rose (the egg shaped one), another that looked like the Pandora, but was longer and curved, two that seem like small Chinese, and a really skinny dark colored one. The Pandora Striped Rose was not springy when I squeezed it - usually a sign that the egg plant is past it's prime eating age. The other eggplants seemed to all be in good condition (except the dark thin one was a bit too soft).
I started by cutting the eggplants into approx. half inch pieces. Since I didn't know the names of the eggplants, I drew little pictures of each type of eggplant onto small pieces of paper so I could keep track. I also minced about six cloves of garlic to cook the eggplant with.
Cooking each batch separately, I sauteed the eggplant in about one tablespoon of light olive oil. It's important to keep the eggplant moving when it hits the hot oil because eggplant can really suck up a lot of oil and a single piece could easily absorb most of the oil in the pan. So, I force the eggplant to share by tossing constantly during the first few seconds in the pan. I then tossed in a pinch of kosher salt and continued to toss. Once all the egg plant had started to cange color (an indication that they are cooking through), I threw in some minced garlic and cooked until the garlic became tender.
Once all the eggplant had been cooked out in the same manner, I called Tina over and we started tasting, going back and forth between plates. My favorite was the one in the upper left corner - the eggplant that looked like the Pandora Striped Rose but was longer and bent. The skin was soft and flavorful and it had a distinct eggplant flavor without being over powering. Next was the one in the lower right corner, cooked from the two eggplants that look like miniature chinese eggplants. The skin was not as soft, but had a little crispy texture to it. Favor was a bit bland, but with the salt, it still tasted quite good. The almost loser was the really thin, dark eggplant in the upper right. Skin was a bit tough and not much flavor. The loser was the Pandora Striped Rose - both skin and flesh were tough and flavor a bit bitter. This eggplant could have benefited greatly from a salting.
My final conclusion? Most of the eggplants pretty much tasted the same, but the skin or flesh would be tougher or softer. Generally, that is an age issue. I don't think I would be able to tell one variety from the next had they all been springy (soft and yet firm) to the touch.