“He dipped his fork into the layers of aubergine and cheese. Moments later, it seemed to detonate in his mouth….. this new dish was something else, teasing his appetite awake again, the intensity of the flavors bringing to life taste buds he had never even known existed.”Anthony Capella, The Wedding Officer
Most aubergines taste broadly the same, but there are some differences – we explain those here.
Types of aubergine
No wonder that aubergine sales in the UK have grown steadily year on year as the interest in vegetarianism and veganism has grown. France and Germany import more but their sales are more erratic (France prefers its own home grown varieties). You can see the different colour types in the featured image at the top of this post. Essentially, there is the dark purple, the vanilla-creamy, and then there’s the pin stripe.
Global and Italian
The traditional Italian purple oval variety is on the left. It has a mild flavour. It’s slightly smaller than the ubiquitous globe artichoke seen everywhere.
The African, or White aubergine (marketed by Waitrose as a ‘snowbergine’ in the winter) including the type ‘Antroewa’, is in the middle. It has a similar taste to the Italian aubergine.
The pinstriped city gent on the right is the Graffiti aubergine. These tend to be a bit less bitter, and with fewer seeds than the traditional Italian, or the African white type. The pinstripes disappear on cooking. There’s a mini variant – the fairy tale aubergine.
There are also round dark aubergines from India, for example, Purpura, which have an aromatic, firm flesh.
Or lighter coloured ones, a variety known as Rosa Bianca which is not bitter.
There is the Italian Violetta, which cookery writer, Frances Jones-Davies, lyrically describes as:
“the most beautiful of all to my mind, the size of a football but oh so delicate, pale lavender streaking down to completely white, grown in Sicily and other parts of Italy. When intersected the inside like white lace, I can’t think how I forgot to mention it. Thin slices (only one fits in a frying pan) fried in olive oil until golden are incredibly pretty scattered with finely chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon.”
There is also the long, thin, deep purple Japanese aubergine, which is supposed to be less bitter than other varieties. And a Chinese cousin which is the same thin shape but a lighter, more lavender colour.
Orange aubergines can be sourced from Turkey, and small green ones (alert, very bitter) from Thailand.
When are aubergines in season?
Aubergines are at their best from July to September.