Eggplant is a very nutritious vegetable with a unique taste and bright purple color. It is grown all over the world and is available to buy in most grocery stores all year round.
You can prepare eggplant in a variety of different ways, which makes it super versatile for eating – you will always be able to find an eggplant recipe to suit your needs.
While you will probably be familiar with cooking methods for your eggplants, you may still be wondering if it’s possible to eat them raw. The short answer is yes, and it certainly won’t do you any harm to consume raw eggplant.
However, there are several factors to consider before you take a bite out of this crunchy, uncooked vegetable, and you still need to know how to prepare it correctly.
What Does Raw Eggplant Taste Like?
Raw eggplant tastes more bitter than cooked eggplant, but that doesn’t mean that it is unpleasant to eat.
Unlike many other vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, eggplant isn’t hard and crunchy when raw – the texture is spongy and soft to bite through. In fact, this is a unique texture that isn’t found in any other food we can think of.
The taste of raw eggplant doesn’t really differ between plants, even though certain characteristics such as color and size vary. It has quite a mild flavor compared to its cooked counterpart, which becomes sweeter and more intense.
This is because the spongy flesh absorbs the flavors of the ingredients around it, making it even more delicious.
Wild eggplants have a relatively high level of bitterness, but cultivated versions have been bred to weaken this aspect, so they are more palatable. If you want to eat raw eggplant, definitely opt for a store-bought vegetable rather than foraging in the wild for one.
How Should I Prepare Raw Eggplant?
Obviously raw eggplant doesn’t require as much preparation as it would if you were going to cook it.
This might encourage you to try it raw, because some people don’t have a lot of time but still like to eat healthily. There are still several steps you need to take first, though.
Choose Your Eggplant Wisely
Fuller eggplants are likely to be less bitter, so try and go for one that is plump and juicy. It should feel firm to the touch, but not so much that it could be described as hard.
Wash It Thoroughly
Even if you have purchased from a grocery store that has excellent hygiene practices, you still need to wash your eggplant before consumption. This is because you never know who might have touched it before you, and it could be harboring all sorts of nasty germs. Bacteria would usually be killed by high heat when cooked, but if you’re not cooking it then the washing stage is especially important.
Examine The Inside
To make sure your eggplant is fully ripe and hasn’t gone bad, cut into it so you can see the flesh properly. It should be white in color (with a hint of green), and the seeds should be distinctly visible. Overripe eggplants will be less palatable and tougher to get through.
Cut Into Slices
You can cut your eggplant however you would like, but circular slices are the easiest; just place the vegetable on its side on a chopping board and cut downwards to create discs. The ideal thickness of each disc is around ¼ inch, but the diameter will likely change as you get further along the eggplant.
Salt The Slices
Spread the slices out and sprinkle them with an even layer of salt. Place them into a colander that is sitting in a bowl to catch the juices, and leave them to drain for 30 minutes.
Transfer the colander to the sink and rinse the slices in turn to get rid of all the salt. Once they are drained, take out the pieces and use a paper towel to pat them dry. They are now ready to eat or cook.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is It Important to Salt Raw Eggplant?
The salting stage isn’t necessary for safety, but it does help to give your raw eggplant a more appealing flavor. The bitterness of the vegetable is carried in its juices, and salt draws out the moisture and leaves behind a pleasant taste. Be careful to remove all the salt at the end of this process, otherwise it will be too salty to enjoy.
Are There Any Dangers of Eating Raw Eggplant?
It may be part of the nightshade family of plants, but eggplant is perfectly safe for humans to consume raw. Solamine, one of the components of such plants, is a toxic substance, but don’t be alarmed: it isn’t poisonous to humans at the levels it is found in these vegetables.
Ensure that you keep raw eggplant away from your pets, though, as it could be dangerous for them to eat.
Some people do have a sensitivity to solamine, which can trigger digestive issues. If you experience nausea or discomfort in your stomach area after eating raw eggplant, you may need to reduce the solamine intake in your diet.
What Can I Eat Raw Eggplant With?
You can eat raw eggplant on its own as a nutritious snack, and it is easy to cut into bite-sized pieces. However, there are some other foods that go well with it and compliment its unusual taste.
Why not add small cubes of raw eggplant into a salad? Squash is a popular ingredient in salads and is favored for its bright colors, so eggplant can fulfill a similar purpose along with your choice of salad leaves and other vegetables. It will also bring an interesting texture to your bowl.
Raw eggplant bacon is a popular dish among vegans, and it can be used in the same way as meat bacon for a mouthwatering, plant-based alternative. There are many recipes that teach you how to make it (such as this one), most of which require the use of a dehydrator for drying out the vegetable and providing its signature crispness.
Eggplant can absolutely be eaten raw, although the flavor might be different from what you might expect if you are only familiar with the cooked version.
Salting the eggplant first takes away some of the bitterness, so we recommend doing this for best results. Enjoy your raw eggplant on the go, or incorporate it into your favorite dishes – it is really good for you, and you may even find you prefer it to cooked eggplant!
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