The elegantly shaped, often gorgeously colored, glossy fruits vary from large oval teardrop-shape to small round grape size. And the mature color can range from white to purple, pink, striped, green, or orange. The plant needs heat and humidity to grow well. Fruit fails to set at temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ripe eggplants are shiny and firm to the touch. Dull skin and brown seeds mean that the fruit is overripe. Use a sharp knife to cut ripe fruits from the plant leaving the cap and short piece of stem attached to the fruit. Plants of some varieties produce sharp spines. Wear gloves to protect your hands when harvesting those types.
Add it to soups and pasta dishes or use it as the basis for hearty meatless casseroles and other entrees. Vegetarians value its rich, deep flavor as an excellent substitute for meat. Used in many Indian dishes, such as bengan bartha. The vegetable is also the basis for Greek moussaka, French ratatouille, and Italian caponata.