Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is For Eggplant (also called Aubergine /Brinjal)

Eggplant from my 2013 crop
By now you might have gathered that I really enjoy gardening and cooking what I grow. My nephew and I have a lot of fun in the kitchen experimenting with food where I try out new recipes on familiar foods or introduce new-to-us vegetables and herbs to dishes.

In addition to using him and his friends as my food tasters (brave people!),  he also loves creating recipes for marinades and sauces using our garden herbs and bakes incredible-tasting pizzas. He's also our resident grill-master:-)


The one vegetable that we're battling to like as a family is eggplant. We've grilled it, fried it, baked it, used it in stews, covered it in batter to make it interesting... and well... while I enjoy it well enough, the family just tolerates it.

So we're seriously considering stopping to grow eggplant. I still have a few bushes from previous seasons but once they are spent, that's it.. we're done. Unless you guys can offer some serving suggestions that could work for my family. So please help:-)

P.S. This post is outside my theme for the AtoZ, as I'm not planting eggplant seeds this month (even if I wanted to, Autumn is not the time to plant eggplant).

How to grow eggplant

Eggplant grow easily in climates where summers are long and warm, so our semi-arid region where temperatures usually range from warm to extreme heat are ideal for  growing this vegetable. You can still grow varieties that mature quickly or grow them in containers if your summers are shorter, if you start out your seedlings inside weeks before Spring officially begins and have a way to keep the starts heated well enough to germinate.

Preparing the soil: Eggplant grows well in fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny area. Make sure that you have not previously grown eggplant/green peppers or tomatoes on that site for at least two years though, as these types of vegetables tend to be very unhappy if you do (I'm still suffering the consequences for ignoring that rule with my tomato crop, but that's the subject for another post).

I compost my clay soil with cow manure very thoroughly weeks before I plant eggplant, though I've never measured the pH to make sure it has the recommended 5.5 -6.5 pH.


The planting process: I tend to plant my seedlings directly into the soil. That works for me because of my climate, but it's not necessarily the recommended treatment for propagating eggplant in areas where there is a proper winter, complete with frost or even snow.

If your summers are short, start your seedlings indoors  six to nine weeks before your average last frost. Soak seeds overnight to encourage them to germinate and then sow them ¼ inch deep in flats or cell-type containers and then keep them warm. The seeds will sprout in seven to ten days.

Once the temperatures have warmed up enough outside,  you can then transplant them to chosen spot. I tend to grow eggplant as a short-term perennial (last 2-3 years), so I'm very careful to put them in an area I have no plans to use the next year or so.

Make sure that there is room for them to grow too (around 2-3 feet apart) as the more space they have, the more productive they'll be. I interplant my eggplant with lettuce, green beans and marigolds (I broadcast marigols everywhere in the garden!) to fill the spaces inbetween.

Plant care: Once the seedlings are secure in their place, I just water them thoroughly and regularly and try to keep them weed-free. In the years I've grown it, I haven't had to deal with pests, but I understand flea-beetles can be a very big issue.


Harvesting eggplant:  The first time I grew eggplant, I wondered how the emerging veggies were going to hold up in the relatively small bushes, but they did. To test for ripeness, press its skin. If the skin does not springs back, then it's ready for harvesting.

Serving suggestions: So..... Please share a recipe that will wow my family:-)

52 comments:

  1. Eggplant is such a versatile vegetable and one of my favorites. I enjoyed your post very much. Roasted eggplant makes a wonderful base for spreads/dips and even those who profess they don't like eggplant (my family) a - never know they're eating it and b - enjoy eating it. HaHa! My little secret, so let's not tell my family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't tell you how many times one of my nieces and nephews have said, " I don't eat X" when I've previously I just served it to them hidden in a meal. So yeah, maybe I should try to use it as a base too. Thanks.

      Delete
    2. I have never tried Eggplant - always wanted to but kept putting it in the "too hard basket" you make it sound easy so I might give it a go. We have recently moved so in the process of starting a vege garden.
      Please take the time to check out my A-Z too, thanks Rose

      Delete
  2. My favorite way of serving it is to fry it in batter, then cover in spaghetti sauce-- Prego is the best-- top with cheese and bake until hot. Then serve with pasta.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Will do as Hilary says.. check out your site. Thank you for visiting.

      Delete
  3. Hi Damaraia .. Karen has some recipe books on her blog ... she has a big family and so her recipes are great for all of us ...

    I used to grow aubergines in SA .. and always used to serve them a la Milanese .. crumbed fried and topped with fresh tomato sauce and some tasty cheese ...

    Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't tried the tomato sauce and cheese... now that's something to experiment with. Thank you.

      Delete
  4. At last got something familiar to me :-)...Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sorry Damaria, but I'm on side with your family - I don't like eggplant/aubergine at all, and never buy it to cook! If it is dished up to me when we are eating out (not often) I politely push it to one side of my plate, eat everything else and say "Gee that was nice, but I'm full now and just can't eat another thing!"

    ReplyDelete
  6. hehehehehe! The visual was just so funny!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's my husband's favourite vegetable, Damaria. It's quite a popular veggie in India. Just today Monica Desphande has shared a recipe for a lovely yogurt and eggplant dish. I've shared it on my FB profile page. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll look up the post, thank you Corinne. You know, I read somewhere that you should try a food at least 17 times before you give up on it. Not sure why that number or if they pulled it out of a hat. But I keep telling my family we haven't reached 17 yet:-)

      And maybe recipes I get from this post will help change our minds.

      Delete
  8. Damaria, as Corinne said, it is quite a popular vegetable in India, but personally I have mixed feelings about it :) I like it cooked in a certain way only, though there are many ways in which people use it here. There is a punjabi dish called Baingan Bharta which I like best as far as eggplant recipes are concerned. Try it out sometime - http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/baingan-bharta.aspx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've just shown Nephew this page and suggested that we try some of the recipes. Luckily we have all the ingrediens except eggplant, so it's doable. Thanks.

      Delete
  9. Not only did we both blog about Dill yesterday, we both blogged about Eggplant today! LOL! Great minds - and gardeners - think alike! Happy gardening. Planting potatoes here in Virginia this weekend....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy gardening to you too. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  10. have you tried Baba Ghanoush? Or Ratatouille?
    http://allrecipes.com/recipe/baba-ghanoush-2/
    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ratatouille-recipe0.html
    Bon appetit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No I hadn't, though I'd heard of them. Thanks for adding to list of recipes to try. Much appreciated.

      Delete
  11. I love all your gardening/growing/harvesting tips in your posts. Eggplant is not one that our family will eat either, but I bet it would look impressive in the garden! That's my weakness when I try to choose plants... what will look cool in the garden vs. what we'll actually eat :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I try to remind myself that we don't just grow things for the "pretty" and that they should eventually be able to make it into the pot. For me it's the different textured/coloured leaves that I sometimes want to grow even though they haven't earned their place in our pot. Then Nephew reminds me that maybe we should buy it from the store first, serve it and if we like it, we can grow it. I don't always listen:-)

      Delete
  12. What kind of eggplants do you grow? I don't like the big (standard European/North American) kind at all, except in the form of babaghanoush, but I do like the long Asian types, and also some of the little round/egg-shaped ones. I find they work very well in curries and stir fries. One of my favourite Thai dishes involves spicy basil, deep-fried tofu, and eggplants, though I've never actually cooked it myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So far I've grown the standard European/North American ones. So exploring different varieties is a good idea. Unfortunately, local nurseries just carry your standard varieties of seeds. Thankfully, Seeds for Africa (online store) has a good selection and I can usually get what I'm looking for from them and their prices are very reasonable. He! Now you're giving me an excuse to go online shopping:-)

      Delete
  13. I like Eggplant Parmesan, but I haven't tried any other concoctions that really got me. I wouldn't mind experimenting and finding something new and yummy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looks like this post will also have a lot of recipes you could also try. The challenge is going to be finding the time:-)

      Delete
  14. You should try the Indian Baingan bharta recipe (the link is here - Recipe ). Something new for you to try maybe (if you haven't tried already)

    - Kripali
    (AJ's wHooligans)
    Sumptuous Living
    A2ZFiction

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never tried it before, but it looks like an interesting recipe. I have most of the ingredients in my pantry except ghee and dhania-jeera, so it doesn't look like something that's far off my scope. Thanks.

      Delete
  15. Liking your choice of A-Z subject :)
    You obviously do well in your plot. I tried Aubergine last year to no avail, could be me, could be climate.

    A lovely and simple recipe is this Turkish salad - http://bakebakebake.livejournal.com/3726614.html - got my hubby looking for seconds and he's not a fan of them.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Nice one, Damaria.I love eggplant in all its forms. Interestingly, I've posted an eggplant recipe today! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for coming by. I'll check it out... more potential eggplant goodness:-)

      Delete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  18. My families the same, they tolerate aubergines, but they still get them occasionally, well, until they cook the family meals they get what they're given LOL!
    Suzanne @ Suzannes Tribe
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hehehehe! I still remember being told the same thing when I was growing up. You ate what was put in front of you and you said "thank you" and didn't complain if the food was singed around the edges or tasted funny.

      Delete
  19. I actually crave this vegetable. A local Thai restaurant prepares a dish I love. When tried at home, I have had mixed results. Either it's tough and chewy or fork tender (which I love). Maybe this is why your family doesn't like it. So I wonder....is it possibly too green when picked? I wish I had an answer. Next time I'm at my favorite Thai restaurant, I need to ask his secret.
    Shells–Tales–Sails

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know either, whether it's picked too green or whatever. I tend to pick it whenever it no longer bounces back when you push at the skin with your finger and it looks Ok inside when I cut it.

      My problem is probably that I haven't found a way to bring out its flavour. For example, when we friend it with batter, for example, the top end of it looked great. But the flesh was kind bland.

      Delete
  20. Wow! It sounds as if you've tried a lot of options and you grow great food!

    ReplyDelete
  21. You write, you garden, and you cook. You are one talented lady. I can't even grow a tomato. Luckily, there's a store just a block away in this tiny little town. :-)
    I joined as a follower to your site, because I might learn a thing or two about gardening as well as what to do with what I grow, if I manage to grow something. :-) Glad to be following, and thanks for such a wonde
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.comrful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a very enthusiastic amateur:-) Thank you for joining me on this journey. I'm sure we're going to learn quite a few things together.

      Delete
  22. I've not made it before, but I hear eggplant parmesan can be quite tasty. You kind of threw me off when you said about it being autumn where you live. It's spring here.

    LuAnn Braley
    AJ's Hooligans @AtoZChallenge
    Back Porchervations

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi LuAnn. Thanks for coming by. I'm African; live in a village called Phokeng in the North West province of South Africa.

      Delete
  23. I also choose Eggplant for my A-Z Challenge. But I made Eggplant Parmigiana Towers. Where do you live where it is autumn. It's spring here.
    www,foodhuntress.com
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Linda. Thank you for coming by. I'll look a recipe for Eggplant Parmigian on BBC Food or the Food Network. I'm African; live in a village called Phokeng in the North West province of South Africa. Hence the Autumn remark.

      Delete
  24. Damaria, I have never grown eggplant although I did buy it once or twice to try it out. I am not all that fond of it but might try growing it one day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm trying the 17 times rule, Nana. I read somewhere that if you don't like some food item, you should try it at least 17 times to find a preparation method that suits your palate. The 17 might be arbitrary, I don't know. But sooner or later I might find a recipe that makes the family go "wow!" rather than "meh!" Oh I'll poison them trying. LOL!

      Delete
  25. I have been enjoying your blog posts and love the theme you are using! I've always wanted to grow a vegetable garden. Maybe one day I will.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cheryl. I hope one day comes soon. Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Delete
  26. Grew my first eggplants this year, very exciting! Not as successful as the courgettes but still great. Here's one of my eggplant recipes I did as part of a 100day project : http://100daysproject.co.nz/project/day/100/2013/255

    ReplyDelete
  27. I am not a fan of eggplant. Being Italian, my mother made lots of eggplant parmesan and I just never liked the consistency. But I do have a recipe for eggplant soup that is very good and I'd be happy to send it to you.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've never been a big fan of eggplant, so I completely understand how you feel. I am currently working my way through a wonderful cookbook these days, trying new recipes from it at least once a week. So far, so good. This is one book that really has it going on :)

    MJ, A to Z Challenge Co-Host
    Writing Tips
    Effectively Human
    Lots of Crochet Stitches


    ReplyDelete
  29. Even though I am not a fan of eggplant, I think it is great when others are able to maintain it. You have a lovely blog. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Love eggplant, it's beautiful in a green curry, layered thinly in a vegetarian lasagne, roasted and blended into a gorgeous dip (babaganoush) or my favourite cut in half lengthways and stuffed with mince (italian flavours - think garlic and parsley) covered with a couple slices of tomato and baked in the oven with lashings of mozzarella cheese over the top - I wish the climate suited eggplant here - they cost so much at the supermarket. Reflex Reactions

    ReplyDelete