Ingredients

When Is Eggplant In Season? Best Time to Buy

4 Mins read

Eggplant is a delicious fruit used in various culinary applications around many cuisines. The deep purple skin of the eggplant makes it a beautiful vegetable to behold, and its unique flavor and texture make it adaptable to various recipes. But only the best eggplant dishes are made from eggplants that are in season. In this article, we will answer the question, “When is eggplant in season?” along with specific usages for eggplants in their different stages of seasonality.

Eggplant cut

Where Eggplant Comes From

The eggplant is widely believed to have originated from India. India and China have been recorded to use eggplant for almost 1,500 years. Over time through trade routes, it also made its way to Europe and Africa. Today it is mainly grown in these same regions, but it can also be found in states such as California or Florida when discussing growing the plant in America. 

Eggplants are similar to tomatoes and peppers because they need tropical or subtropical climates to grow successfully. High temperatures with a lot of sunlight are the key for eggplants. Temperatures between 70F-85F are widely considered ideal for the eggplant and its peak growth. Colder temps will yield very slow growth results. 

What Ripe Eggplant Should Taste Like 

Ripe eggplant has a taste sought by many cooks and chefs alike. Eating an eggplant that is not ripe is not desired, as the fruit is bitter and texturally unappealing in any stage but ripeness. The flavor of eggplant is slightly bitter, vegetal, and earthy. The texture of the eggplant is spongy and can absorb a lot, which makes it a great ingredient to cook with. It should not be too bitter and have a very mild sweetness to the fruit when ripe. A ripe eggplant will cook and break down very quickly and offer a delicious flavor when paired with any spices and seasonings you add to the cooking process. 

When is eggplant in season

When is Eggplant in Season

In America, the season for eggplant can vary state by state. The eggplant is a frost-delicate fruit, meaning colder weather will kill or harm the plant. In states such as California and Alabama, the peak growing season is from mid-May to October. In Florida, the growing season is from January to June and November to December. Whenever the temperature threshold for growing is met, and frost is not active, you can expect eggplant to be in season in the United States. 

For India, eggplants are grown year-round but at their peak in the spring and early summer. In Africa, they are also grown year-round, but their peak season is the late summer and the fall. And China’s peak season is from July to October, which also offers sections to grow the eggplant year-round. Some other countries that grow eggplant are Turkey, Italy, Japan, and Spain.

How To Tell If An Eggplant Is Ripe

Knowing if an eggplant is ripe is crucial to getting the best quality out of any of the ones you use. Eggplant does not ripen off of the vine, so picking it before it is ripe is not ideal and will leave you with a highly bitter version of the fruit. Most eggplant sold in stores should be near ripeness to avoid this, but it is always great to know which are the best to take home in your grocery basket. 

When touched, a ripe eggplant should have a firm texture, but it should not be too hard. The flesh of the eggplant should be white with a mild green hue. A simple trick to tell if an eggplant is ripe is by squeezing it. If the indentation from your fingers springs back, then the eggplant is ripe and ready to eat. Finally, the seeds of an eggplant should be more on the yellow side. If they are brown, your eggplant is overripe and will likely be more bitter. 

Seasonal Cooking With Eggplant 

How eggplants are prepared in different cuisines depends highly on the ripeness and seasonality of the fruit at any given moment. A very popular way to make eggplant is baba ganoush. This delicious dip is made by roasting the eggplant to give it a smoky flavor. It is chopped and blended with olive oil, salt, lemon juice, tahini, and other spices. The dish has Lebanese roots but is made worldwide due to its popularity. 

Grilled eggplant dishes are an excellent way to prepare eggplant. Smoky flavors do well with eggplant as they soak into the flesh, absorbing the aroma and flavor of the wood they are grilled on. Grilled eggplant slices are a great addition to any meal. You can get creative with the flavor of this dish by playing around with the types of wood you use when grilling to make unique flavor profiles. 

The best way to capture the flavor of eggplant in season is to pair it with other ingredients in season at that same time. Roasting eggplant with other seasonal veg makes for a great side dish to any meal. Creating a filling with which you can stuff the eggplant is a great way to capture the seasonal flavor of many different ingredients. It all comes down to the ingredients available to you, the cuisine type you want to cook in, and how much time you have to dedicate to the process. 

Using Eggplant When In Season

Eggplant is in season when it can be grown in subtropical temperatures while avoiding frost. The sweet spot for most eggplant is 70F-85F. Eating eggplant in season allows the flavors of this fruit to shine through. And cooking with eggplant in season is truly a delight for anyone who wants to take this fruit to the next level. Be sure to keep an eye out for ripe, seasonal eggplant at your local market to try it!

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About author
Ray Delucci is a chef and content creator with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He has worked managing restaurants, in food manufacturing and food product development. He is also the creator of Line Cook Thoughts, a podcast and social media brand focused on sharing the thoughts of everyday cooks in the food world. He is currently located in the Greater Chicago Area.
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