Ichiban eggplant is a Japanese vegetable that looks quite similar to Chinese eggplant. It has a elongated, dark purple body and white flesh. Ichiban can be grown with relative ease in a vegetable garden, and incorporated into many different recipes. It can be grilled and drizzled with oil, boiled, stuffed and roasted or included in a sauce or soup. First, you need to know when your eggplant is ripe to pick, and secondly, when it is cooked properly to eat.
Growing Ichiban Eggplant
Check the color of the eggplant. When it is ready, it is a dark, purple color with a glossy skin. In some lights it has a tendency to be black, but it remains shiny.
Measure the length of the vegetable from the green stalk to the base. The ideal time to harvest the eggplant is when it is between 6 and 8 inches long, although the yield may grow shorter or longer than this.
Squeeze the eggplant gently. It is ready to pick when it is tender to the touch — it will feel as squidgy as an unpeeled orange. If it is too soft, it is overripe, so throw it away. If it is hard, leave it for another day until you check its ripeness again.
Smell the eggplant. It should not smell rotten or sour. If it is wafting an odor then you have left it too long, so remove the eggplant from the branch and throw it away.
Read the details of your eggplant recipe, and be aware of the timings for cooking. This gives you a rough idea of when it will be ready to take off the heat, or remove from the oven.
Assess the texture of the eggplant. When it is ready, the flesh changes from being firm and white, to floppy and yellowy in color. If you are grilling it, then it will have a golden-brown tinge.
Pierce the eggplant with a fork. Poke the fork in the middle of the eggplant and feel the consistency of the flesh. It is ready when the flesh is soft, so the fork will glide easily into it, and be tender to the touch.
Taste the eggplant. Undercooked eggplant tastes sour, and has a firm bite. It should be soft to eat and have a delicate flavor.