Linda asks, “The eggplant seemed fine when I brought it home from the store yesterday, but today when I took it out of the refrigerator, the insides were brown instead of white. Did I do something wrong? Was it a mistake to put eggplant in the refrigerator?”
In Greece, our kitchen garden provides an abundant crop of eggplant, thanks to cousins Effi’s and Nikos’ hard work. When it’s time to cook, I step into the yard and harvest what I need for the day’s meal. Clearly, the best place to store eggplant is on the vine.
Eggplant does not, however, grow in cold climates like Alaska. When I want eggplant here, I have to buy it. By the time it reaches my house, supermarket eggplant has usually passed from the grower to a wholesaler to a shipper to another wholesaler to a retailer to me. Since eggplant is highly perishable and doesn’t store well, it needs to be used within 24 hours of bringing it home from the store.
Yeah, right. In reality, I may be too busy, or too tired, or just too damn disorganized to immediately use everything I buy at the store or that arrives in my CSA box. For years, I bought eggplant, dutifully put it in the refrigerator with all the other produce, and was unpleasantly surprised when the flesh turned brown and spoiled. I hate to think how many formerly purple beauties went in the garbage before cousin Froso taught me that eggplants and refrigerators don’t mix.
Here’s why: The ideal temperature for storing eggplant is 50° F. If stored at temperatures lower than this, eggplant deteriorates quickly. Since most refrigerators are set between 35° and 38°F, they aren’t a good location for storing eggplants. Room temperature (68° to 70° F) isn’t a good idea either; eggplants perish quickly if kept this warm.
If I can’t use eggplants immediately (which, honestly, I try my hardest to do), I store them in the coolest place available: the dry and well-ventilated garage. To absorb moisture and help prevent spoilage, I put them in paper bags or, wrapped in paper towels, in unsealed plastic bags. Although eggplant may shrivel if kept this way for more than a few days, the flesh stays creamy white and the eggplants generally remain usable.
Delicious Recipes Using Eggplant: