Today's tip

This is what I look for when I buy eggplants.

I love cooking with seasonal vegetables, and eggplants are best through the summer into the fall. But they are available year-round, and I do buy them and cook with them all year long.

This is what I look for when I buy eggplants: I prefer small eggplants, weighing 6 to 8 ounces each. These generally have fewer and smaller seeds, which are the source of the bitterness. I try to choose eggplants of uniform width; “big-bellied” eggplants are more likely to have lots of mature seeds.

The ideal eggplant should have firm flesh, with no bruises; glossy skin, with no blemishes; and a tight skin that covers the flesh so well that it “squeaks” when you rub it. A long green stem is also an indicator that the fruit has been recently picked and is still drawing nourishment from the stem. Indeed, a fresh, vital stem, not a withered brown one, is a reassuring sign of freshness for most vegetables, as is the presence of fresh leaves on root vegetables such as carrots, beets, and turnips.