Eggplant makes for a delicious meal. Think about any time you have had a ratatouille or eggplant parmigiana; you no doubt loved every bite. If you enjoy eating eggplant regularly, you may have an important question with an uncertain answer: do I have to peel the eggplant?
If you are preparing an eggplant meal in your home, it is important to know whether or not the skin can be involved. In short, no, you do not have to peel the skin off of the eggplant before using it. Though thick and chewy, eggplant skin is completely fine to eat and there are some people who prefer to leave the skin on their eggplant.
Before we go further into peeling versus no peeling, it is important to know the nutrition behind the eggplant. Eggplant is a vegetable that is grown in warm seasons, typically in temperate climates and also perennially in more tropical climates.
The skin itself is purple with hints of black in color. When you’re looking for an eggplant, check to make sure there are discolorations or cracks in the skin. If the skin is rubber and looks worn, you should move on and find something else.
Eggplant is also commonly mislabeled as a vegetable, much like tomatoes. In actuality, it is a fruit. Eggplants are completely free of cholesterol, fat, and sodium. They are also a great source of fiber and are low in calories. For example, a serving of three ounces of eggplant has just five grams of carbohydrates and 20 total calories. Of those five carbs, three of them are fiber.
If you thought that was the entirety of the nutrition brought to the table by eggplants, think again. They also make for a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. Moreover, they can help to lower cholesterol and even regulate blood pressure.
To Peel or Not to Peel
Back to the big question: should you peel your eggplant? Generally speaking, an eggplant has a mild taste and a soft inside. This makes it great for sautéing, baking, and even frying. The skin, though, can be quite thick and have a bitter taste. For this reason, many people choose to peel off the skin.
But before you decide that peeling the skin is automatically a good idea, think again. The skin can be the healthiest part of the eggplant. There have been studies showing that keeping the peel on your vegetables and fruits can help to retain the fiber in those foods. If you are trying to maintain a high fiber, balanced diet, keep the skin on your fruits and vegetables.
Removing the skin can also come down to cleanliness. Some people feel that the skin on the fruits and vegetables are “dirty” and feel better removing them before consumption. People will take off the skin from their vegetables and fruit to remove any potential contaminants, but that isn’t necessary.
Sure, the skin or peel of a fruit or vegetable can have bacteria, dirt, and pesticide residue on it. But giving it a good, solid wash will get them more than clean enough that you can eat the skin.
While you’re washing the skin, make sure you use a soft brush or rub it with your hands. Cover all of the areas: the blossom, the stem, and even any of the areas that happen to be bruised. Some people prefer commercial produce washers, but water will work just fine.
The process of cleaning thoroughly will get the food clean enough that you will get more of the fiber and beneficial chemicals that are found in the fruits and vegetables.
Making the Skin of the Eggplant More Edible
So, now that you know that you can leave the eggplant skin on and be completely fine, it comes down to a matter of taste and texture. Sure, you can leave the skin on, but will you want to? Some people can be quite picky about the preparation of their food and may still opt to leave the skin off.
If you want to make the eggplant skin more edible, start at the source. Be more selective in the eggplants that you choose. Look for smaller, younger eggplants. These will generally have thinner skins that are easier to consume. If you end up with older eggplants, peeling the skin before consuming it is the best bet.
It may come as a shock, but many supermarket eggplants are actually overripened. This would explain why so many of them taste bitter when taken home and consumed. Getting an eggplant fresh after harvest can mean a thinner skin and a less bitter taste.
Keep in mind that some recipes will call for the removal of the skin anyway, such as a baba ganoush, for instance. When this is the case, you can choose larger eggplants and be just fine with the result.
For some simple recipes or grilling recipes where the skin is left on, make sure to go with a smaller option. This will allow the skin to remain edible without the bitter taste that can accompany a larger eggplant.
Looking for another alternative to peeling the skin? Try to soak the eggplant in some water 15 minutes or so before you prepare it. Giving it that opportunity to soak can bring out some of the bitter flavor, making it more palatable to eat.
Always remember that no matter how unpalatable and chewy the skin may seem it is totally safe to eat. There are other areas of the eggplant, though, that are not edible. The leaves, for instance, are actually toxic. Do not eat these under any circumstances.
Another thing to keep in mind is that eggplant needs to be cooked. If you can’t recall eating raw eggplant, that’s because you probably haven’t done so. There are chemicals in the eggplant that will upset your digestive system if you eat the eggplant raw. So, make sure that you cook it thoroughly before you eat it.
Quality Eggplant Recipes
Eggplant can make for a great alternative to meat. This is because it has a substantial texture to it and a savory taste as well. So, if you’re a vegetarian or simply looking to cut down on the amount of meat that you consume, eggplant can make for a great alternative.
There are also a ton of recipes out there that don’t require any peeling or skinning. You can simply dice the eggplant down into smaller cubes or sliced rounds and grill or stir-fry them up. If you really want to get fancy with it, there are some recipes where eggplant can even be used to make imitation bacon.
One thing to keep in mind while you’re playing around and experimenting with different methods: eggplant turns brown pretty quickly after it’s been cut. You can mitigate the oxidation process by squeezing some lemon juice over your eggplant pieces; that will keep it fresh in room temperature for up to 48 hours.
Eggplant is a delicious, nutritious food that has found use in many different recipes. Now that you know that the skin is fine to eat, you can find a plethora of recipes where the skin plays a role.