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Degorging Eggplants

Have you ever eaten eggplant that's been unpleasantly bitter? Especially if you live in a cold country, this is often a problem and has put many people off what can be a delicious and healthy vegetable.

The bitterness in eggplant is caused by toxins that build up if the eggplant has grown slowly (hence it's more of a problem in colder countries, less of a problem in sunny Meditteranean climates). If you can buy smaller, heavier eggplants, it's less likely to be a problem.

These toxins can also cause gastric upsets, so I always ask guests if anyone is sensitive to eggplant if I'm cooking them dinner.

There IS however a way to reduce the bitterness (toxins) - with humble salt. Cut up the eggplant into slices or cubes, as appropriate fro what you'll be cooking, then either soak in heavily salted water for a couple of hours, or sprinkle the dry, cut pieces heavily with salt. The eggplant will give off a brownish sweat, which you then rinse off before cooking. This process is called degorging. I do it depending on the time of year, and also the size and weight of the eggplant.

This is actually one of the only times I use salt in cooking - and I always rinse the eggplant several times before cooking it.

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