Eggplant is available year-round (both field and greenhouse grown), but regional and local production starts in earnest by the mid-summer just about everywhere. Like tomatoes, eggplants require the warm days of summer to bear fruit. There are dozens of varieties produced for sale in the U.S., and the supply and varieties available peaks mid-summer through September.
When selecting eggplant, the stem and cap will tell you a lot about the age of the product. Stems should be a bright green and free of any brown or black discoloration. The eggplant should be firm with no soft spots.
One of my summertime sandwich favorites pairs eggplant with other abundant summer vegetables. To grill eggplant, just slice lengthwise (skin on) into ¼- to ½-inch-thick slices. Brush both sides with a mixture of three parts olive oil and one part soy sauce and place on a grill over indirect heat. Cook until soft, five to seven minutes on each side. Remove from the grill and set aside.
In the meantime, sauté some sweet peppers and onions until just soft, about five minutes. Place the eggplant and sautéed vegetables on your favorite bun or bread with a slice of your favorite cheese (I like a sharp Cheddar) and toast until the cheese melts. Finish with a thick slice of your favorite heirloom tomato (Brandywine for me), some fresh basil leaves, and mayonnaise and mustard, to taste.
— James Parker, global associate perishables coordinator for Whole Foods Market