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Turkish eggplant is distinguished by its petite size, globular shape and linear variegations throughout its skin. When young the fruit will be green, if left on the vine to mature it will turn an orange hue with red striations. When young and green its warm cotton colored flesh bears barely developed seeds that will brown when exposed to air due to oxidization. Once fully mature and orange to red in color its seeds will be more pronounced. When young their flavor is rich and sweet, as they mature to their orange-red stage, however, they will take on an increasingly bitter flavor.
Turkish eggplants are available mid to late summer.
Turkish eggplants are scientifically classified as part of Solanum aethiopicum and are also known as Scarlet eggplant, Ethiopian eggplant, Gilo, Garden Eggs and Mock tomato. The name Solanum applies to thousands of eggplant varieties which share common ancestry and genomes, yet vary in shape, color, size and even flavor. All eggplants are members of Solanaceae family, which includes several important agricultural crops, including the potato and tomato. The family is also informally referred to as the nightshade family.
Turkish eggplants are an inherently rich source of lycopene, a naturally occurring pigment that doubles as an antioxidant. The Lycopene is contained within the eggplant's skin and develops once the fruit ripens. Lycopene is known for its anti-cancer benefits such as preventing, fighting and repairing cell damage within human bodies.
Turkish eggplant is as versatile as larger eggplant varieties and can be used both at its young green stage and mature red-orange stage, though it is predominately used when green. Applications include grilling, sautéing, baking, frying, pureeing, stewing and pickling. When young they are popularly used in stews and curries, as they mature and take on a more bitter flavor they are ideal prepared in a hollowed, stuffed and baked fashion. Eggplant’s overall culinary companions are other members of the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes and peppers, both sweet and hot. The fruit also pairs well with garlic, peaches, fennel and herbs such as oregano, cilantro and parsley. Like many eggplant varieties Turkish eggplant has a short shelf life and should be used within two to three days, for best flavor and texture store in a cool dry place until ready to use.
In many parts of Asia the Turkish eggplant is considered medicinal and believed to aid in lowering blood sugar levels. In Brazil in the state of Minas Gerais the Turkish eggplant which is known there as Gilo or Jiló is one of the traditional foods of the decedents of slaves that settled in that region and first brought the fruit to the country from Africa.
Turkish eggplant is native to Africa. It is believed to be more closely related to wild eggplant species than the traditional purple eggplant. Modern purple eggplant types typically do not have traits commonly found in wild and Turkish eggplants such as thorny vines and petite fruits bred out. It first made its way from Africa to the Americas via slaves who snuck seeds of their favorite crops from home onto the ships. Turkish eggplants are extremely popular today in Brazil. Their climate preference, like most eggplants, is hot and humid weather with absolutely no chance of frost.
Recipes that include Turkish Eggplant. One is easiest, three is harder.