Are Male Eggplants Superior?

OK “scandal” may be a bit tabloid but there has been an ongoing controversy regarding whether male eggplants are less bitter than female eggplants and whether eggplants actually have sex at all (bitter and frustrated?).

We’ve gone to the experts to set the record straight. Here’s what they said:

“Male” and “female” eggplant is a case of unfortunate terminology. “Vegetables,” such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, are – botanically speaking – really fruits. The fruits themselves can’t be considered “male or female. “Male pollen was transferred to female parts of the flower, resulting in the fruit we eat. Different varieties of eggplant may be more bitter and contain more noticeable seeds than others. Also, as an eggplant fruit matures, the seeds become more noticeable. So an eggplant picked when very mature to over-mature might appear “seedier” than others picked when less mature, even those from the same plant. Pick eggplant fruits when full size is reached but while the exterior is still a glossy purple. Once the exterior becomes dull purple, the eggplant fruit is over-mature.

Source: Robert Cox, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Horticulture, Jefferson County.

There is long-standing controversy about male and female eggplants, which is an inaccurate approach considering the fact that fruits are the product of sex and do not have it. However, it is folk wisdom worth some attention. Eggplants have a dimple at the blossom end. The dimple can be very round or oval in shape. The round ones seem to have more seeds and tend to be less meaty, so select the oval dimpled eggplant.

Source: Ron Wolford, Extension Educator-Urban Horticulture & Gardening, and Drusilla Banks, Extension Educator-Nutrition and Wellness, University of Illinois Extension.

Male eggplants tend to have fewer seeds, and are therefore less bitter than female eggplants. To sex an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. If it’s deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. If it’s shallow and round, it’s a male. Smaller eggplants also tend to be less bitter. Freshness is important, so don’t store them for very long.

Source: The Cook’s Thesaurus, by Lori Alden.

Despite the ages old, old-wives tale that there are male and female eggplants and the male of the species is better eating –detected because it has an “outie” blossom end as opposed to the female “innie” blossom end – there is no such thing. I follow different old-wives adivce, learned from my many years of cooking with old wives in Italy.

Source: The Food Maven Diary, by Arthur Schwartz.