Although it's technically a fruit (a berry, to be exact), the aubergine is used as a vegetable. It's native to Southeast Asia, but is grown all over the world, and there are many different varieties, including the bulbous, glossy, deep purple zepplin-like types common to Mediterranean cuisine; the small, tubular Asian types; the little, plump, ivory examples (hence ‘eggplant’, its name in the United States and Australia); or the scarcely-bigger-than-a-pea varieties grown in Thailand. All varieties share the same bland, mildly smoky flavour and flesh that's spongy when raw but soft when cooked.
Find out about the health benefits of aubergines with our guide.
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Firm, smooth, glossy examples, with bright green stalks. A fresh aubergine should feel fairly heavy.
To avoid discolouration, cut just before cooking. In the past, recipes called for aubergines to be sliced and salted before cooking to reduce their bitterness. As modern varieties are much less bitter that's no longer necessary, unless you're planning to fry them; aubergines soak up oil like a sponge and salting helps reduce that.
Watch our video on how to griddle aubergines:
In the salad drawer of the fridge – they'll keep for a couple of days.
Aubergine is often found baked in a Greek moussaka or Provençale ratatouille; roasted and pureed with garlic, tahini, lemon juice, salt and cumin for the Middle Eastern dip, baba ganoush; thinly sliced and fried to make aubergine crisps.
Find out more about cooking aubergine.