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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Eggplant, One of My Favorite Vegetables


Other than tomatoes, one of my favorite vegetables is eggplant.

That’s right, eggplant. Solanum melongena. Aubergine.

I usually grow three or four plants of eggplant in my vegetable garden and enjoy one or two summer meals with fried eggplant, tomato slices, fresh green beans, and my own homegrown sweet corn. It’s a happy day here at May Dreams Gardens when I can harvest all four of these vegetables on the same day and eat them together for one meal.

Those three or four eggplant plants will generally produce way more eggplant than I can eat, so I try to give the rest of the eggplant away. I say “try” because most people don’t want the eggplant. I don’t think they know how to fix it or they don’t like the taste of it.

I do like the taste of eggplant, so I should figure out other ways to fix it, other than frying it. One of my co-workers keeps mentioning a few recipes for baked dishes that include eggplant as a main ingredient, so maybe I’ll get those from her in exchange for some eggplant.

This year I’m growing only one variety, called ‘Dusky’. I chose ‘Dusky’ over ‘Black Beauty’, which is what I usually plant, because it is supposed to be ready to harvest in 63 days versus 83 days for ‘Black Beauty’, and be prolific. I’m not so concerned with how many eggplant I get, as long as I get a few, but to harvest earlier seems like a good thing.

I suspect no matter what variety I grow it will get attacked by little black flea beetles right after I plant it in the garden, leaving the leaves full of little holes and spots. I do nothing to control these beetles because I still end up with a few eggplant in spite of them, and my goal is just to get a few anyway.

I did read somewhere that good crop rotation helps control flea beetles. Good crop rotation helps control a lot of diseases and insect infestations in the garden, and I try to practice that whenever I can.

By “good crop rotation”, this source, which I can no longer find, said not to plant the eggplant in the same place where eggplant has been grown for the last four years.

My gardening records are good, but not that good, so who knows where all I’ve planted eggplant in my raised beds these past few years? I can only remember where I planted them last year. I won’t plant these eggplant in that raised bed or any other bed where I grew tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes. Along with eggplant, they are all members of the Solanaceae family of plants, and thus are likely to be susceptible to the same diseases and insects.

I just remembered that last year the rabbits ate off my newly planted eggplant seedlings, just like they bit off some pepper plants, so I had to replace my eggplant seedlings with a few store bought plants. That’s a bad memory that I did my best to suppress, but writing this post brought it to mind again.

That’s not going to happen this year! I’m on to those rabbits! I'm going to liberally sprinkle cayenne pepper on and around the eggplant, along with the peppers, to keep the bunnies away until the plants get big enough to fend for themselves. Maybe the cayenne pepper will also keep the flea beetles from doing their damage? Time will tell.

I just know that if I am going to the trouble of sowing seeds indoors ahead of time to get a variety of eggplant that I might be able to harvest nearly three weeks earlier than normal, I don’t want to risk having a rabbit indiscriminately bite the plants off and leave them laying on the ground like last year.

Trying new things each year, like cayenne pepper on eggplant to keep the rabbits away, is part of the fun of gardening. Even after over two decades of having my own vegetable garden, every year I always find some new variety to try, a new challenge to overcome, or a new trick to try to keep the rabbits and insects away so I can enjoy the harvest.

Who else will be enjoying a harvest of eggplants from their garden this summer? Do you have any eggplant recipes to share?

21 comments:

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I need to try eggplant again. I remember having it when I was younger and not really liking it. I'm not very picky and will eat just about anything, so I'd probably like it now.

You are making me so hungry for fresh vegetables.

Leslie said...

Mmmm...ratatouille from the garden...
I medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbl. olive oil (not from garden!)
2 large eggplant, pared and diced
4 green peppers, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbl. mixed herbs (I use oregano, basil, chives)
5-6 ripe tomatoes

Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft (don't brown garlic). Add eggplant, peppers, tomatoes. Saute a few minutes until juicy. Add herbs and spices. Simmer about 30 minutes...add a little water if there isn't much juice.
You can eat it as is, grate parmagiano over it, or make a cheese sauce with jack cheese and spread over. If using either cheese option you can brown it lightly in the oven at 450˚ for five minutes. I sometimes add zucchini. The proportions are all easy to change to what you have/like best. Now we just have to wait a few months!

Ferne said...

I have grown Dusky before and it is a really good eggplant. I like to slice my eggplant about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick and then brush them with a little olive oil and put them on the grill. I slice them into julienne strips and put them in salads or eat with other vegetables and rice and of course there is always eggplant parmesean, a little work to prepare, but ohhhh so delicious!

I have been lurking at your site for a while so thought I should stop in and say 'hi!'

chigiy at Gardeners Anonymous said...

Do you make eggplant parmesan?
That's my favorite eggplant dish.
I've never tried to grow eggplant before.
Maybe I should give it a shot.
BTW, I don't have an eggplant parmesan recipe. I just like to eat it.
Try my friends website: Simplyrecipes.com
She will have a recipe for you.

Meenoo said...

Delurking here...
I love eggplant. I grow it in containers. The Asian varieties do better, in my experience, because they don't take as much time to mature. Roasted eggplant is delicious and you can mash it up and make baigan bharta (an Indian dish of roasted mashed eggplant with spices).

Mad Man Bamboo said...

I know you want to stay away from fried eggplant, but nothing beats a well prepared eggplant parmesean. Carol, you made me hungry! : )

Sean

Sherry at the Zoo said...

Sam's club probably carries cayenne pepper in bulk! Don't worry, if you end up with too many, you know where to bring them!

Frances said...

Hmmm, so the flea beetles don't keep you from getting the fruits? Maybe I will give it a try again, I hate those little holes and won't spray so gave up on growing it.

Frances at Faire Garden

lintys said...

mmmm. . . eggplant parmesan! my favorite!

Stickers said...

I'd love some eggplant if you're giving it away. It is so expensive in the store. Smooch.

janie said...

I was going to say "ratatouille from the garden" too.

Mine is not fancy, but good anyway.

Eggplant, peeled and cut in slices
Tomatoes, cut in quarters
onions, sliced
Zucchini,cut into pieces
salt and pepper to taste
garlic, minced
thyme, oregano,marjoram as desired

Put everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce temp, cover and simmer until all veggies are tender, but not mushy.

Pour on a platter and drizzle with olive oil.

Good stuff!

Nicole said...

Hi Carol
I have never been very successful growing eggplant, but since the farmers here are, I enjoy a bounty in season.
You might want to try my Easy eggplant parmesan (with no frying):
http://caribbeangarden.blogspot.com/2008/01/easy-eggplant-parmigiano.html
And eggplant choka-
http://caribbeangarden.blogspot.com/2008/01/three-chokas.html
to use like a dip or sandwich filling with pita bread.

Nicole said...

Easy eggplant parmesan
Inspired by the recipe on Kitchen Garden Seeds

No breading or frying cuts out labour and calories.

3-4 medium eggplants (or about 6 Asian eggplants)
Olive oil
Coarse salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups seeded, sliced tomatoes (can substitute good quality canned tomatoes)
1 cup chopped basil
hot pepper ( chili, habanero, chili flakes) to taste ( optional)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or grand padano
1 cup grated or sliced mozzarella
Fresh, seasoned bread crumbs
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Slice eggplants about ½” thick. Rub olive oil on baking sheet.

Place slices on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Rub with fingers to coat slices. Sprinkle with salt and 1 clove garlic.

Bake or grill for 15 minutes.

Combine basil, tomatoes and remaining garlic, and hot pepper if using.

In a baking dish, put a layer of eggplant and then tomato basil mixture. Sprinkle with garlic, ground pepper, seasoned bread crumbs and grated parmesan and sliced mozzarella. Repeat. Top last layer of eggplant with breadcrumbs and cheese.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until lightly browned. Let set for 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil or oregano, if desired.

Eggplant choka

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large eggplant
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 small onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (optional)
1/8 teaspoon minced hot pepper (optional)
Salt to taste (usually ½ teaspoon)
Pinch of black pepper

Wash eggplant and make 4 slits in it with a knife.
Stick the garlic cloves into the slits made in the eggplant.
Rub the eggplant with a ½ teaspoon of oil.
Roast eggplant over an open flame (on grill or gas stovetop) until soft, you can use a long handled tong or fork to turn it to roast evenly. Place roasted eggplant in a plate and peel off charred skin with a knife.
Mash the pulp and roasted garlic in a bowl with a fork. I use the blender/food processor for a smoother texture. Add the other ingredients to the pulp, mashing with a fork to release the oils from the pepper and onion. Mix thoroughly. Garnish with chopped chives or cilantro.

You can also grill the eggplant in the oven, scooping out the soft flesh, but you won't get the authentic char roasted flavor.

eleanor said...

Carol, you've made me hungry. We need to go to 'Olive Garden' & get their Eggplant parmesan. Just let me know when

Kylee said...

I grew little ones last year just because I think they're pretty. Neither of us likes it to eat. I don't think I'll grow it this year though. Too many other things to try!

WiseAcre said...

I always have egg plant in the garden. I grow it for it's looks but I won't eat the it. Unlike Zucchini I won't throw it at passing cars since friends and family appreciate the egg plant harvest.

Carol said...

Robin's Nesting Place, Yes, try eggplant again. A lot of the taste depends on how it is fixed.

Leslie, Thank you for the recipe, I'll try it this summer.

Ferne, Thanks for commenting this time, and thanks for the eggplant tips. I'm glad to get a good report on 'Dusky'.

Chigiy, Thank you, I will check out that site for a recipe or two.

Meenoo, Thanks for de-lurking and for the tips on eggplant.

Mad Man Bamboo, I made myself hungry, too.

Sherry at the Zoo, Sam's Club is indeed where I buy cayenne pepper in bulk. I need a lot of it.

Frances, Yes, I get fruit even after the flea beetles mess up the leaves. Try it again!

Lintys, It is one of my favorites, too.

Stickers, I'll give some to Sherry to give to you!

Janie, Thanks, I'll try it this summer.

Nicole, Easy and no frying sounds perfect for me. Thanks for the recipe!

Eleanor, Hey, we aren't supposed to eat a bunch of fried stuff!

Kylee, I agree, they are pretty but if you aren't going to eat even one, why bother. There are prettier plants!

Wiseacre, I'm glad someone eats it!

Thanks all for the nice comments,
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Ewa said...

I also love eggplant, but never tried to grow it in my garden. After reading your post I got inspired and I will sow few just in next days.
I like it so much, that I preserve it for winter by frying it together with pepper.
Greetings,
Ewa from Poland

inadvertentgardener said...

Carol, I'm a little bit obsessed with eggplant -- went crazy over them last summer. My favorite way to prepare them is just to chop them up and toss in olive oil and salt and pepper and roast at 425 degrees until they're soft and browned. I could just eat an entire meal of that, but I have also been known to throw some tomatoes in after the fact, or some beans or whatever.

Kerri said...

I think we've only ever grown eggplant once, long ago. I love it so perhaps we'll give it a try again this year.
Those recipes sound delicious. You've made me hungry too. I'm off to get dinner!

Entangled said...

Oh, I'm late to the party again, but I love eggplant! Let me count the ways:
1. Baba Ganoush
2. Eggplant Bharta, previously mentioned by Meenoo
3. Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches (slice eggplant, salt and drain, brush with olive oil, grill) topped with whatever sounds good
4. Zee's Eggplant Salad - search sunset.com and you'll find it
5. Toss sauteed or grilled pieces of eggplant with fresh tomato, onion, basil, olive oil and toasted bread cubes as a panzanella.

etc. etc. Did I mention that I like eggplant?