Farmers market spotlight: Turkish eggplant

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In this biweekly Farmers Market Spotlight, we feature a food item that’s available at a Capital Region farmers market, but usually not supermarkets, and offer tips on how to cook with it.  

What is it: These shiny, fire-orange globes streaked with green appear the furthest thing from the familiar purple eggplant. At first glance, the Turkish eggplant is easy to mistake for persimmon — a fruit we can expect later this fall — but slice one open and the difference is clear in its vivid color and many seeds. Sometimes known as Ethiopian eggplant, Gilo, scarlet eggplant or mock tomato, the Turkish eggplant is an heirloom variety that originated in Africa. Distinct from the highly bred Asian purple eggplant, its seeds were brought by enslaved Africans to North and South America.  

What to do with it: Use Turkish eggplant in any recipe that calls for eggplant, like baba ganoush or eggplant Parm, but there are a few things to know. The more plain and brightly orange the eggplant, the riper it is, but mature seeds can be bitter, so go for orange orbs streaked green. They can be grilled, sauteed, stewed, roasted and pickled or hollowed, stuffed and baked. Slice them thinly, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt to roast and add to summer salads; cut ripe Turkish eggplants in wedges to show off the bright inner flesh, and roast on a single tray with onion, fennel, peaches and dill. Make a fall buddha bowl over basmati rice or Greek yogurt with lemon juice, torn fresh herbs, pine nuts and crunchy seeds. 

Where to find it: While still rare to find in supermarkets, growing interest in West African regional cuisine has increased the likelihood that you’ll come across Turkish eggplants in specialty food stores and farmers markets. Currently in season, you’ll find these scarlet Turkish eggplants grown by Buhrmaster Farms at the Schenectady Greenmarket, Saratoga Farmers Market and the Town of Colonie Farmers’ Market at The Crossings.    

Price: $3.50 per pint, $5 per quart. 

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