The garden looked splendid this morning when I visited to give everything a drink. We even have a sunflower ready! It isn’t one of the giant sunflowers, but a smaller yellow-red variety. It is very pretty, on the west side of the garden near the radish patch.
Earlier this week, Ann and I went to the greenhouse to get seeds for our second planting. We got all kinds of lettuce, radishes, arugula, cucumbers, and spinach. We will probably be planting those tomorrow at our workday. Be there or be square!
Big news (garden-style)! We have an eggplant ready! It is about 8 inches long and looks great. I’m not a huge eggplant-eater, so I wasn’t sure when it would be ready, but after some wonderfully fascinating research, now I know!
Eggplant is native to India. It has been grown in Asia for thousands of years, and it reached the Western world in the sixteenth century. The word itself “eggplant” which is used in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, comes from its resemblance (in its white form) to a large hen’s egg. In British English, it is called the aubergine, a derivation of the French.
The eggplant is a warm season vegetable, it is very sensitive to cold. Much like peppers, be sure to transplant into your garden after all danger of frost is past.
Unless you absolutely love eggplant and want to eat it everyday, 3-5 plants should be quite enough for an entire family (and probably your neighbors). I believe we only have one in our garden, and it has a bunch of tiny fruits on it.
Be sure to water your eggplant, much like any other plant in your garden. Eggplant is one of the best hot-summer veggies. It can withstand quite a bit of heat and thrive. Just be sure it doesn’t get too dried out.
You should harvest the fruit when it is 6 or 8 inches long, be sure it is still glossy. Cut off the eggplants, as breaking or twisting the stems can cause damage to the plants. Be careful when you harvest as the stem often has thorns. Leave the calyx attached to the fruit. If you forget to harvest and one gets overripe, don’t fret. Just cut off the overmature fruit and discard it. You’ll get more eggplant if you get rid of the old one.
Cut eggplant from the stalk when it is young and tender. To be sure your eggplant is ready, gently press it with your thumb. If the flesh indents and rebounds, it is ready; if it will not indent, it is immature, and if the indentation remains, it is overripe. Be gentle when harvesting. Use immediately for best flavor. If you must store it, put it in the fridge for no more than 2 days.
Enjoy your eggplant cooked, baked, steamed, sautéed, fried (though it may absorb a lot of oil), or grilled. Basically, just don’t eat it raw!
A fun recipe, recommended by Ann Z.
Time: 45 minutes, plus 3 hours marinating time
Mixed Olive Salad Relish
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup pitted green olives
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
4 cloves pickled garlic
1/2 cup (about ten) sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed or dried and reconstituted)
4 tsp red wine or white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp each: dried crumbled rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 smallish eggplant
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
2 red peppers, sliced into strips (you can use jarred roasted peppers to save a step if you’d like)
1 (9-10 inch) round peasant style loaf of bread
Preheat the over to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Cut the eggplant widthwise into 1/4 inch slices and rub each slice with kosher salt. Allow to drain in a colander for half and hour.
Place the olives, parsley, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss in the vinegar and dried herbs. With a food processor or blender, chop the mixture in two or three batches, adding some of the olive oil with each batch. Process it ONLY enough to chop up the olives and tomatoes – stop often and use a rubber spatula to move the stuff around. You want a chunky mixture, not a paste.
Place the spinach leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and set aside.
Rinse the salted eggplant slices with cold water, rub with olive oil, and lay in a baking sheet. Roast with the sliced peppers for 20 to 22 minutes, flipping once until the eggplant is browned and tender. When they are done, place the eggplant slices on top of the spinach and toss to combine (the hot eggplant will slightly wilt the spinach leaves).
Now it’s time to assemble the sandwich! Insert a sharp knife into the side of the bread at a slightly downward angle. Cut the loaf in half, working the knife on the angle to create a shallow bread bowl. Scoop out some of the insides to create a deeper bowl.
Spread the olive relish very thickly on each side of the loaf, making sure to get lots of the oil and juices onto the bread. Layer the bottom with eggplant, spinach, peppers, more eggplant, and then top with the last of the spinach. Replace the top of the loaf and press down very firmly with your whole body weight. Wrap tightly in foil and the refrigerate for several hours, with something heavy on top to press it down.
This will allow for all the juices and flavors to marinate and get all mmmm (that’s a technical term).
To serve, slice the sandwich carefully in half, then in half again. It’s a great meal on its own or served with a nice wine and veggie crudites.
Give this a try if you like eggplant. Ann says it was delish!