Skip to main content

Eat Seasonally for September with Eggplant

Aug 31, 2022 ● By Laine DeLeo
A woman holding a wooden bin of eggplants.

Photo credit pexels-zen-chung-5529588

Eggplants are mid- to late-summer vegetables that come in many sizes, shapes, colors and varieties. They’re abundant in August and September markets and taste best when harvested young and are of a smaller size. While many may be familiar with traditional eggplant parmigiana recipes, they are quite versatile and add well to a variety of dishes, from a grilled side dish to hearty soups and stews, quick stir fries or global specialties.

While the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen don’t list eggplant, they do report that approximately 75 percent of eggplants sampled were free of pesticide residue, with no more than three pesticides detected on those with residues. Use the lists as a quick reference to the most and least contaminated produce.

Indian eggplant, also called ratna eggplant, brinjal and baby eggplant, grows to about two to three inches in length and has a smaller, oval shape with dark, reddish-purple, medium-thick skin. Cooking Indian eggplant brings a mild, creamy flavor and texture with a slightly sweet finish.

American eggplant is known as the big, bulky variety of eggplant, aubergine or globe eggplant. It has a teardrop shape that ranges from six to 10 or more inches in length, with dark, purple-black skin that is smooth and glossy. This is the most common and usually the least expensive eggplant variety. American eggplant has a large, meaty texture suited for slicing, grilling and roasting.

Chinese eggplant, or Japanese eggplant, is also called thin eggplant due to its slender, cylindrical shape. It usually grows to about eight inches in length with a two-inch diameter. Chinese eggplant has thin skin with lavender purple or dark purple color and white flesh with the most delicate flavor of all the market varieties. When cooked, it has an extra creamy flavor and is ideal for grilling, soups and steamed with sauce.

Italian eggplant is otherwise called  melanzane and has a teardrop shape with dark, purple skin. It resembles the shape and color of the American eggplant, but is slightly smaller with thinner skin. Italian eggplant is typically five to eight inches in length with tender flesh and a sweeter flavor than the larger American variety. Their smaller size makes them perfect for stuffing, roasting and broiling.

Thai eggplant, or makhuea, is a small, golf ball-shaped eggplant that comes in white, purple and yellow. The most common Thai eggplant variety is pale green with white stripes toward the bottom. Thai eggplant is roughly one inch in diameter with a crunchy texture and mild, slightly bitter flavor. It’s a popular ingredient in Thai green and red curries.

Laine DeLeo is a self-proclaimed health goddess, foodie and founder of a vegan food company creating hit-the-spot healthy and tasty vegan snacks that are better for people and the planet. She is a 13-year Chicago resident and loves yoga, music, art, outdoor activities and supporting great local, independent businesses. Follow her on Instagram: Fastlanetohealth and Twitter: @Fastlane2Health. is her nonprofit blog advocating for wellness.

Eggplant with Marinara and Gnocchi

A fast, easy and delicious vegan recipe that is healthy for people and the planet.

Yield: Serves 4

1 or more eggplants (the mini Indian variety was used here from the farmers market and proved to be more flavorful and cook faster than American or Italian eggplant) – quantity needed will vary by size of the eggplants

1 jar or equivalent amount homemade
tomato marinara sauce (a favorite pre-made brand can be used to save time,
but feel free to make it from scratch)

1 package of gnocchi
(frozen was used for this recipe)

Cut a whole or half eggplant (depending on hunger or number of people) into extremely thin, even slices.

Add tomato sauce to a medium-sized pan or pot over medium-low heat and layer the slices of eggplant so they are covering the tomato sauce surface with minimal, if any, eggplant overlap. It is fine if the slices become submerged.

Cover and bring to a low simmer for about 6-7 minutes, flip (use turner) or stir the eggplant slices and simmer for several more minutes.

Add the gnocchi and cover for 4 more minutes.

Turn off heat, stir, and taste test to ensure perfection. Keep covered a few more minutes if anything isn’t completely tender.

Serve and devour. Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen.


Other Seasonally September Picks

Take a leisurely walk to enjoy nature and support your local farmers markets simultaneously. Check out the local, organic produce and up and coming vegan vendors/brands.

Now in season at the Market: Apples, bell peppers, berries, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, garlic, grapes, herbs, lettuce, melon, nectarines, okra, onions, peaches, peas, plums, potatoes, pumpkin, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and more. Get creative with berries, carrots and melon, whereas this is possibly the last month for their seasonality. Check back to see what’s in season for October, or visit The Illinois Produce Calendar at