The Foodie

eggplant, Asian pear, apple pears, pears, cucumber

What’s Fresh in Early September: Eggplant, Asian Pears and Cucumbers

September 03, 2008
by Erin Harris
Let the flavors of sun-ripened fruits and vegetables linger on your taste buds as you prepare for autumn’s chill. Keep your meals fresh and your heart healthy by incorporating eggplant, Asian pears, and cucumbers into your diet. All three are at peak ripeness right now, so fill your fridge before pumpkins and gourds take over the market stands.


Awkwardly shaped, curvy eggplant can be a wonderful treat if prepared correctly. Choose ones with deep, glossy skin; sprinkle with salt before cooking to prevent the absorption of too much oil. Eggplant comes in a range of hues, from shades of ivory to the deep purple of Japanese or globe eggplant. Christina Nunez of NPR says that most varieties share the same flavor regardless of color, but notes that the more seeds an eggplant contains, the more bitter its taste.

Keep the skin on your eggplant when tossing it into ratatouille or breading it for parmigian. The outer layer is rich in terpenes, compounds that may help lower cholesterol. Australian newspaper The Age applauds the health benefits of eggplant. The vegetable (well, actually, it’s a fruit) contains high levels of chlorogenic acid, which research suggests “has anti-cancer, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.”
Eggplant caponata is an Italian concoction so versatile it can be used as a sauce, dip or sandwich filling. Like ratatouille, the longer it’s allowed to simmer over low heat, the more completely the flavors blend together. In this Caponata Sandwich recipe, eggplant is cooked with mushrooms, green pepper, onion and a medley of herbs and spices. The Kitchn spreads a generous amount of the mixture onto crusty ciabatta bread and layers on slices of fresh, sweet buffalo mozzarella.

Asian Pears

What makes a pear Asian? Well for one thing, it lacks the tapered shape of European varieties, such as Anjou or Bosc, and is typically much juicier and sweeter. Like an apple, it ripens on the tree and bears crisp, white flesh. You’ve probably seen the 20th Century (aka Nijisseki) Asian pear, characterized by smooth, golden skin, at your local market.

Asian pears can help you meet your daily vitamin C and K requirements. One medium-sized Asian pear also contains 18 percent of your recommended daily fiber, which may help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Low in fat and cholesterol, one Asian pear is approximately 50 calories; unfortunately, much of that are sugars.

Looking for a warm dish to tuck into when the cool weather rolls in? Try this recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle. Warm flatbread is topped with sliced Asian pears, caramelized onions, blue cheese and soy-glazed pecans. The perfect balance of tangy, pungent and sweet, this flatbread would serve as a great appetizer for a group or as a delicious meal for one. The melon undertones of Asian pears echo the sweet flavors of summer as they seep into this robust, early autumn dish.


Markets overflow with piles of cucumbers this time of year and you may want some help determining the uses of tiny gherkins or long Japanese cucumbers. Cook’s Thesaurus provides images and information about each variety, from mild English cucumbers to bumpy, suitable-for-pickling Kirby cucumbers.

Although they have a reputation for being low in nutrients, cucumbers contain almost as much potassium per serving as watermelon or green apples. They help to rid the body of sulfite, a toxin found in preservatives that is “commonly added to dried foods, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, pickles and wine.” Food chemist Chia Joo Suan, writing for Malaysia’s The Star newspaper, recommends that people who eat sausages or burgers add cucumbers to their diet, as those meats can be high in preservatives. Manganese aids the absorption of other nutrients and is concentrated in cucumber skin. Cucumbers are also known to “prevent water retention, reduce swelling and help soothe skin irritations”—which explains why so many women rest slices of the vegetable on puffy eyelids.

When cucumbers are in season, there’s no need to dress them up with fancy sauces or dressings. Sprig, a guide to organic living, suggests tossing diced cucumber with coarse chunks of heirloom tomatoes and sweet onion. This recipe for Tomato Cucumber Salad is a fresh, colorful way to embrace the last flavors of summer as the season winds down.

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