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Taiwanese eggplant is available year-round.
Taiwanese eggplants are varieties of eggplants within the genus, Solanum melongena, which contains hundreds of eggplants with a wide range of fruit shapes and colors, ranging from oval and egg-shaped to long cylindrical and club-shaped. Colors range from white to purple to green to striated. Taiwanese eggplants are typically green and cylindrical and they play a major culinary role throughout China, Japan and India. Common Taiwanese eggplant varieties include Green Beauty, Hari and Thai Long green.
Taiwanese eggplants grow up to eight inches in length, their shape, cylindrical and oblong with a thin, glossy, lime to dark green-colored skin. The interior cream colored flesh is spongy and nearly seedless. Taiwanese eggplant's flavor is mild and because it is nearly seedless and its skin is green it does not possess that bitter trademark quality found in Western purple-skinned varieties.
Taiwanese eggplants carry phenolic compounds within their fruit's skin. These compounds are dual purpose as they act as protective agents, inhibitors, natural animal toxicants and pesticides within nature. They also have scientifically been shown to provide antioxidant protection against heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
Taiwanese eggplant is a very versatile and adaptable eggplant. Its sponge-like textural qualities allow it to easily take on bold and complex flavorings such as miso, ginger, yuzu, garlic, bean sauce and soy sauce. All eggplants are amenable to a variety of cooking methods including sautéing, steaming, baking, braising, stir-frying, and especially grilling. Complimentary pairings include chiles, tomatoes, squash, grilled fish, shrimp, duck, lentils, herbs such as basil, mint, cilantro and parsley as well as cheeses such as fresh cow's milk and aged sheep's cheese. Always choose eggplants with a firm, smooth, unblemished skin devoid of any soft spots. Like all Asian varieties, Taiwanese eggplant has a short post-vine shelf life, thus should be used within a few days of harvest. Avoid refrigeration as it can hasten the ageing of the eggplant, rather, keep stored in a cool dry place until ready to use.
Traditionally eggplants in Taiwan are used in a dish known as fish fragrant eggplant, Sichuan eggplant or in Chinese as yuxiang qiezi . A dish which is also associated with preparation of fish in Sichuan cuisine and consists of hot, sour, sweet and salty flavors of soy sauce, chili bean paste, Sichuan pepper and black vinegar.
Though the name Taiwanese eggplant suggests that they are native to Taiwan, that is not necessarily true. Most eggplants were brought into Taiwan via strategic trade routes as it is an island crossroads between many Asian countries. Once eggplants were cultivated in Taiwan, these varieties would give birth to newer varieties, all with lineage originating in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Taiwan has dual geographical attributes that contribute to its ability to continually harvest eggplant. Its subtropical climate offers the humidity and heat in which eggplants thrive. In addition to the subtropics, Taiwan has cool climate mountain regions rising almost 4,000 meters above sea level. These areas also produce temperate-zone fruits and vegetables. Thus eggplants can be grown year round in Taiwan.