Aubergine is the fruit of a herbaceous plant, which has its roots in ancient times and in Eastern countries such as China and India. Today it is widely cultivated in Italy, especially in the southern regions.
The plant has a creeping and herbaceous stem from which the fruits branch off, supported by a slightly thorny peduncle and calyx. The fruits are fleshy berries with an elongated shape (and a slightly spicy flavor), but they can be also rounded or oblong (with a more delicate flavour). Their white pulp, slightly bitter, has a low caloric content, but, being spongy, it easily absorbs seasonings and fats; it also contains seeds, especially in ripe fruits. The skin is dark violet and very shiny. The best months for the consumption of this vegetable are the summer-autumn ones, exactly from June to October. However, today aubergines are cultivated in green houses and therefore can be found all year round. The most common species of aubergines, obtained from crosses, have the advantage of having few seeds and little water; this makes it quicker to cook them in the kitchen, allowing to shorten or avoid the salting phase, important to eliminate the vegetable's liquid. In addition, they oxidize slowly, so they can be stored for a long time.
Before cooking, the aubergines have to be cut into slices or cubes, sprinkled with salt and left on an inclined cutting board or in a colander to lose their vegetation water (which is bitter) for at least an hour. In addition, the white pulp tends to darken after cutting, so if it is not salted, it is best to sprinkle it with lemon juice in order to avoid blackening.
Aubergines can be prepared in many ways: fried, stewed, sautéed, stuffed, grilled and mashed.
Types of aubergines
Round aubergines: they have a delicate taste; among the most common are the Prosperosa, the Violetta of Florence and the Monstrous of New York, the latter is known for its large dimensions.
Oval aubergines: the best known are Black Beauty and Jers King. Galine is also very popular, characterized by an early ripening.
Long aubergines: Neapolitan and Palermitan violets are appreciated for their strong taste, as well as Rimini, very dark and bright in color.