I grew up in the generation that if you wanted a vegetable, you opened up a can. I had never eaten a fresh green bean until after I was married. I chopped it up into tiny pieces and boiled it to death. I had not a clue what to do with fresh, I just wanted to cook it so it turned out the same as the canned ones.
The same thing is true of Egg Plant. I vividly remember eating at Frank's parent's house one night and I ate the most delicious, fabulous thing I had ever tasted. I had no clue what it was and asked my mother-in-law what it was. As everyone else at the big table dropped their forks, she said Egg Plant baked in the oven with cheese and tomatoes on top, Egg Plant Parmesan. Oh and of course, since they are 100% Italian, it had garlic in it. I went to the grocery store and had to ask the man where were the egg plants, I don't think I even knew what they looked like fresh.
So for a whole summer, I cooked, steamed, stir fried and baked egg plant and from that point on, we ate it at least once a week. But I never grew egg plant successfully until we moved here in Gridley. I planted a few in Nevada City, but I think the summer heat just wasn't long enough, similar to melons, to get the full sized ones.
We grow our egg plants from seed, in trays, they are easy to germinate and within a month, they are large enough to live outside. Of course we grow lots of plants for our CSA farm business. The beauty of these plants, is that they keep producing and producing after you pick. In fact, the more you pick, the more they produce clear into fall.
What is an Egg Plant? Did you know it is related to the tomato and potato?? It is an Aubergine species.
Eggplants belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes. They grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height. While the different varieties do range slightly in taste and texture, one can generally describe the eggplant as having a pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture. They contain elements: copper, potassium, vitamin B1, B3, B6, manganese and others. And it is low in calories and high in fiber.
When I was looking through my seed catalogs this spring, I noticed there is a new variety out, a WHITE Egg Plant!!! It is called Raja in the Johnny's Seed Catalog.I didn't buy it because the one aspect about the egg plant is the color, why ruin your final dish of beautiful purple. Maybe next year.
I love the large oval Egg Plants, but we also grow the Orient Express variety-long and slender; and the Rosa Bianca variety which is lighter purple with striping of white. In my estimation, as stated, they basically taste the same but will pick up flavors of your seasoning, or other vegetables you put with it. In the summer I just take a bunch of fresh picked veggies, cut them all up and put them in a pan with a little olive oil, some garlic, salt & pepper and saute them all together. Particularly using the tomatoes, or peppers added to the egg plant will bring out the best of all their flavors. Put it over rice; or pasta-a form of ratatouille. And maybe some great cheese on top of that???? Yum.
The plants can get fairly tall, maybe 30" or taller so they will need some staking, especially when those large oval variety start to get larger, they will pull over a plant. Each plant can have more than 4-6+ egg plants on each plant once they are full grown.
This week we delivered our first CSA basket and our 2015 season has begun. In the basket, we had lettuce, garlic, red and yellow onions, strawberries, cherries, zucchini, yellow squash, kiwi, green beans, cilantro, snow peas and small cucumbers. I also provided a sample size of honey I obtained from our friend bee keeper, Mr. Valadez. We will now be providing 1 lb jars and 2 lb jars of honey for our members from his bees. And we also gave our members a complimentary country fresh flower bouquet to start our baskets off with a bang.
We hope you plant a Egg Plant or two in your garden.