Thursday, July 9, 2009

Does this recipe do my heirloom eggplant justice?

Eggplants and beans are at the top of my list of favorite vegetables for the garden. Both are easy to grow from seed, they are not overly bothered by insects, and they have proven to be highly productive. There is a huge list of heirloom and new varieties to try. And, other than sticking a bamboo pole in to stake the beans, these plants don't require a lot of effort once they're in the ground, and the plants and vegetables are both gorgeous in the garden.

White it's easy to snap off the beans when they're mature, I have a harder time letting go of my eggplants. First of all, I'm never quite sure if it's time to harvest, or if I can leave them on the plant for one more day to get just a tad bigger. And then, when I finally summon up the courage to take out the pruners and cut off the eggplant, they're so pretty that it seems a shame to cook them for just any dinner.

This puts a lot of pressure on David. He'd better pick a recipe worthy of my eggplant lest they make the ultimate sacrifice in vain. Last night, he lived up to expectations with a gorgeous pasta dish -- Penne con Melanzane (Penne with Eggplant) from The Italian Country Cookbook by the London restaurant owners Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. In addition to using two of our eggplants for this recipe, tomatoes, Italian parsley and dried chiles from the garden went into the dish.

Eggplant is amazingly versatile. We've made Middle Eastern, Italian, Indian, French and Chinese dishes that all feature eggplant to good advantage. It can be sauteed, pureed, or fried. At the restaurant, we make an amazing Eggplant Parmesan soup that has a devoted following. I often bring a bowl of it home for dinner. Fresh, organic eggplant from our garden is far superior to anything we've bought at the grocery store -- it's not tough or rubbery, there aren't too many seeds, and the skin isn't thick and bitter. And at least in our garden, it has been a low-maintenance and relatively pest-free plant. I occasionally swat off a flea beetle, but that's about it.

Whenever I order seeds, I can't resist adding at least one packet of eggplant seeds to my order. Right now, I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm growing 12 types of eggplant. I have no hope of using all the eggplant seeds I've purchased, but it's the variety that I find so alluring. Yesterday I harvested a white "Cloud Nine" eggplant, two "Black Beauty" eggplants, and my current favorite (depicted above), "Rotunda Bianca Sfumata di Rosa". It's a mouthful, but what a gorgeous eggplant. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Laurie Colwin wrote about being alone in the kitchen with an eggplant. I love to spend time alone in the garden admiring my eggplant. Coming next are "Listada de Gandia" and "Ping Tung Long" from Seed Saver's Exchange, "Rosa Bianca", "Louisiana Long Green" and "Turkish Italian Orange" from Southern Exposure, and "Thai Hybrid Green Doll" and "Thai Hybrid Tiger" from Evergreen. I'm waiting for a packet of "Japanese Hybrid Money Maker" ordered with my Komatsuna seeds from Evergreen just last week. There's always room for one more eggplant variety in the garden. It's the harvesting that's hard.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.