In order to get to the bottom of this, we have to understand a little more about where eggplant is coming from, literally. If eggplants could talk, how might they refute these accusations?
Eggplant's rebuttal: We're not very difficult to grow. In fact, if you plant us at the right time of year, give us good soil with the proper pH and enough nutrients, we're very hardy. I'll admit that getting us started can be a little tricky: cold soil and cool temperatures really stunt our growth--we love hot weather. When we're young, we're also subject to getting eaten alive by flea beetles. Do us a favor and keep us covered with a floating row cover (a light weight spun polyester blanket especially made for protecting crops). If that doesn't do the trick, try spraying us with a little pyrethrin and then put the cover back on us. That will probably lick 'em and then I can get to work. Trust me, I'll make you more eggplant than you can handle if you treat me right!
Eggplant's rebuttal: Hey, watch where you lay the blame! Just so you know, we're only bitter because you harvested us at the wrong time and/or you didn't water us properly--about an inch of water a week would be nice, thank you very much! We're meant to be harvested when we're young--before our seeds fully form and we get tough skins. I'll give you a tip that will help you tell if an eggplant is overripe and, therefore, likely to be bitter: at harvest time, gently press your thumb against the side of the eggplant you're considering. If the indentation from your thumb stays, the eggplant is way over mature. Throw that one in the compost heap--he gives all of us a bad name!
Eggplant's rebuttal Cooking eggplant is a snap. We're so versatile--did you know that there are all different kinds of eggplant besides the big purple ones: long skinny ones, little round ones, green, lavender white and striped eggplants in almost every shape and size. . . whether you plan to grill, bake, steam, saut? or pickle us, we've got you covered! In fact, eggplant even freezes well. And, like I said, if you harvest eggplants while they're young, the skins are so tender, you don't have to peel them. That makes the cooking part a lot easier, right?
As for ruining your diet, all I can say is that eggplants are naturally very low in calories. I'll give you a hint for cutting down on the amount of oil it takes to cook them: if you salt the eggplant and press any excess water (and air) out of it before cooking, it will absorb way, way, less oil. By using recipes that combine eggplant with juicy vegetables such as tomatoes (think eggplant ratatouille, not, eggplant parmesan!) you can also easily make us part of a healthy, low-fat meal. It's possible to cook 1-2 pounds of eggplant with only a spritz of oil, as long as you select the right recipe.
Now that we've given the eggplant time to clear up any misconceptions that we had about him, let's do some soul searching. It could be that we owe him an apology!