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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. They include the bulbous, glossy, deep purple zeppelin type common to Mediterranean cuisine; the small and plump ivory-coloured aubergine from the United States and Australia (where it's referred to as eggplant); or the much smaller varieties grown in Thailand. They all share the same mildly smoky flavour and a texture that is spongy when raw but soft when cooked.
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 is 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 aubergine:
Aubergine is often found baked in a Greek moussaka or Provençale ratatouille; roasted and puréed with garlic, tahini, lemon juice, salt and cumin for the Middle Eastern dip baba ganoush; and even thinly sliced and fried to make aubergine crisps.
Find out more about cooking aubergine.
In the salad drawer of the fridge where they will keep for a couple of days.
All year round, but at their best from late May through to mid-October.
Learn how to grow your own aubergines from the experts at Gardeners’ World.
Look for firm, smooth, glossy aubergines with bright green stalks. A fresh aubergine should feel fairly heavy.