Eggplants originated in tropical Asia but were later cultivated in India, then spread to the Middle East. They were finally brought to the Spain and the south of Italy by Arab settlers.

Eggplants are members of the nightshade family, which includes the potato and tomato. While most consider the eggplant to be a vegetable, this is actually common misconception. The eggplant is actually a fruit — a berry to be exact.

Chinese eggplants are narrow and straight, with a slightly sweeter flesh than their robust, pear-shaped American relatives. Their color can range from solid dark purple to striated shades of purple.

With any eggplant, its important to choose a firm, smooth-skinned eggplant that is heavy for its size. The older they get, the more bitter they become. They are also extremely perishable, so its best to cook with them while they are fresh, ideally within 2 days of purchase.

One of the best features of an eggplant are the countless ways in which one may prepare them, including frying, baking, and broiling, just to name a few. In this month’s recipe, we saute them alongside onion and garlic, but as a tasty alternative, you can thinly slice the eggplant and fry them in olive oil to achieve a crisp, chip-like texture. Add them back into the sauce at the last minute before you garnish and serve.