How To Pick A Perfectly Ripe Eggplant At The Store Every Time

Person choosing eggplant at grocery store
Person choosing eggplant at grocery store - Nikola Stojadinovic/Getty Images

When cooking with fresh eggplant, the decisions that determine the fate of your meal start when you head to the grocery store. No matter the variety you want to cook with, taking a little extra time to carefully choose your eggplant can ensure a quality result. You'll just need to look out for a few distinct qualities -- namely firmness, color, texture, and size.

There's a whole world of eggplant varieties to choose from, but the type that is most commonly used stateside is the Globe/American eggplant. When wandering the produce section, the first thing you'll notice about these nightshades is the deep purple color of their skin. Like most fresh produce, you ideally want the skin to be smooth and free of any blemishes or wrinkles. Either could be a sign of the eggplant growing old, getting damaged, or being taken care of poorly. Instead, eggplant skin should have a shiny luster to it -- showing that it's been freshly harvested and properly stored. Once the skin is in the clear, you can check for a few other key signs of freshness as well.

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More Qualities To Look For In A Ripe Eggplant

Bowl of eggplants
Bowl of eggplants - Tanyalovus/Getty Images

While you first notice the deep purple eggplant skin color, don't forget to take a look at other parts of the eggplant like the stem as well. The stem can be one of the first places an eggplant will start to show signs of going bad. Ideally, the eggplant stem should be a bright, vibrant green with no signs of decay or especially mold growth.

Now, don't toss that eggplant into your shopping cart just yet. Pick up the eggplant first and give it a good feel. How heavy is the eggplant in your hands? A weightier eggplant is a good indication that the inner flesh is in good condition. This doesn't mean you have to buy the biggest eggplant in the store, you just want it to feel dense. In addition to checking the weight, poke around gently at the eggplant's flesh to make sure it's firm (but not too hard) and doesn't give way easily. Unlike some fruits and vegetables, a fresh, healthy eggplant shouldn't feel plump or have any bounce to it when handled.

Storing And Cooking Your Perfectly Ripe Eggplant

Eggplant parmigiana with basil
Eggplant parmigiana with basil - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

After investigating the eggplants at the store, you've hopefully chosen a perfectly ripe option to cook with. But make sure you don't ruin your efforts -- properly storing your eggplant before use can help maintain its freshness. A fresh eggplant can stay fresh on your counter at room temperature for about four days, or it can keep in the fridge for up to a week. Just wrap it in a paper towel and store it in a plastic bag first to avoid moisture seeping into and rotting the eggplant.

If you've chosen a medium-sized eggplant, you're more likely to have an eggplant with a mild flavor. Larger eggplants can err on the bitter side, which may not be what you're looking for. Whether you're making classic eggplant parmesan or slicing it up and tossing it on the grill, your next eggplant-forward meal is sure to shine as long as you start by choosing the freshest, ripest eggplant possible.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.