How to Select an Eggplant: Male vs Female

a.k.a. Why I trust a Yinzer in the produce aisle at Giant Eagle more than science to select a decent eggplant

So here’s the thing about eggplant. I’m not a fan.

Well, I hadn’t been for a very long time. But a couple of years ago I was standing kind of glassy-eyed in the massive produce section of a huge Giant Eagle grocery store in the sprawling outskirts of Pittsburgh’s Parkway West and things changed for me on the eggplant front. I don’t know how long I had been standing there muttering to myself about bell peppers. That’s all I needed to buy. A couple of dang bell peppers. Where are the bell peppers? This shouldn’t be so haaaaaaard.

A fellow shopper came to my rescue by escorting me to the peppers. And then told me her favorite secret for picking eggplants. She asked if I liked eggplant. I said, “well, no… I think they’re kind of mushy.” She said she used to feel the same way until she learned how to select an eggplant. I wasn’t buying an eggplant. Neither was she. But her secret was just too good to keep to herself… as all the best secrets are.

“Only get male eggplants,” she said, “They have fewer seeds. All of the fancy restaurants use male eggplants.” You’ve got to love advice that comes all wrapped up in a Pittsburgh yinzer accent.

I was sold on trying eggplant again. And she showed me how to tell the difference between the genders. The female has a slit and the male has a circle. See?

Take a look at the belly buttons on these two eggplants. The female is a slit and the male is a circle.

Take a look at the belly buttons on these two eggplants. The female has a slit and the male has a circle.

Well shoot. That’s easy enough, right?

Right. Well…

According to science, there’s a little more to it. In fact, the University of Illinois Extension says that eggplants are “the products of sex and do not have [a sex].” Generally, I tend to agree with science. Though I’m a product of sex and certainly have a sex…

But anyway, there’s even more science that flies in the face of the beautiful Appalachian advice I had been given: the maturity of an eggplant can also determine how seedy (i.e. mushy) an eggplant is. The younger, smaller fruits have fewer seeds and the larger ones have more.

Sigh.

So here’s the thing. Ever since my produce aisle encounter, I’ve been choosing “male” eggplants, and they seem to be better. Perhaps it’s coincidence. Perhaps it’s placebo. Perhaps it’s just magic. But I’m going to stick with this “male” thing because it’s working for me. What’s a girl supposed to do? Close her eyes and let conflicting science take the wheel?

Sooooo, how do you choose your eggplants?

8 thoughts on “How to Select an Eggplant: Male vs Female

  1. I don’t know about the male or female thing but I do know that if you feel the egg plant toward the top (the skinny part ) and it is mushy the eggplant is old. The top of the egg plant should be nice and firm to make sure you’re getting a fresh one.

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  2. I choose the egg plant by sex too, my method is the ones that have an indented belly button are female and the flat belly button is male. Works so far. Eat them in health whichever ones you select.

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  3. I’m going to try the male/female thing but the only way to prepare eggplant so it isn’t mushy is to peel and slice it very thin—1/4” is considered thick. Dip each slice in beaten egg with a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil (to help the breading stick) and then into cornflakes crumbs or panko that has been ground finer by smashing it in the bowl with a glass. Do not use cracker crumbs!! There I’ve insulted my motherinlaw. Fry to a golden brown and drain on paper towels on a plate. When done frying, place more layers of paper towels on top with another plate on top of the towels and flip the whole thing over. Remove the first plate and towels that are really oily and the fresh plate and towels keeps your eggplant or zucchini nice and oil free and crispy. My mother made eggplant/zucchini casseroles and they were always horribly mushy. There I’ve insulted my own mother. Frying is the only way to go!

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