Some eggplants are ivory white, short and plump like a large hen’s egg, hence their name eggplant in the U.S. (typically referred to as Aubergine elsewhere). There are many different varieties of eggplants (Solanum melongena)and their color ranges from deep purple-black to lighter shades of purple, lavender, green, green and white, and in rare cases orange. They can be long and thin, long and wide, short, skinny, or tiny in bunches but they all taste quite similar when cooked. Here in Manila, we are most accustomed to a medium purple eggplant that is relatively thin; however, we use the American term eggplant because, as a reader pointed out, the Americans taught us English.
At a market recently, I found five other variants which just goes to show you how much we have available out there without really noticing… There were the more western large hefty eggplants, smaller white and green eggplants, baby asian eggplants (used in pinakbet), round fat eggplants for curries, and pea eggplants in bunches (that I now read are possibly botanically not eggplants at all, according to one of six reference books I consulted, but that a local provedore claims might be an aphrodisiac, so what do we care what it is botanically?). Believed to have originated in India or China, eggplants/aubergines were probably cultivated there well over 2,000 years ago. They eventually made their way to Europe courtesy of the Moors and in the 1500’s, the Spaniards and Portuguese brought eggplants to North America where they thrived. It is such a versatile vegetable that it eventually became a huge part of several cuisines from Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterrenean, etc.
When buying, look for fruit that is firm, shiny and heavy for its size. The skin must be taut and not wrinkled. They should keep in the fridge for about 10 days max. We often use eggplant locally in sinigangs, pinakbets, and in roasted eggplant salads. But because of its abundance, we should experiment more with eggplants in curries, parmigianas, casseroles, etc. to take advantage of its availability and versatility.