I love eggplant. I’m not sure I was always the fan I am now. It was something we didn’t have a lot of growing up. My first introduction to this unusual fruit (yes it’s a fruit, a berry to be specific) that I remember was from this Italian restaurant in San Antonio called Little Mikes. My dad would always order the eggplant parmesan. I typically ordered the spaghetti which was heavenly. I don’t think I liked it much then. We moved to Hawaii shortly after high school graduation and unlike the round eggplant one finds in a lot in Italian dishes, I was introduced to a longer, skinnier version of eggplant in many Asian dishes. They were stir fried in a shoyu sauce with a bit of pork. Then came baba ganoush from an Indian restaurant. Little did I know what I was missing when I was younger. One thing for certain, eggplant is certainly versatile. I think it is an acquired taste. While my husband loves it, both my kids are not fans.
Eggplant grows like a weed here. There is very little we have to do to keep it thriving. Sometimes the ducks and chickens will peck at them a bit, but when they do, I just cut those pieces off. We grow both the round eggplant and the longer, skinnier Japanese eggplant. Currently both are the purple varieties, but we’ve grown green and white previously. There are also pink and black varieties, neither of which we have grown. To be honest, I don’t taste a difference in any of the varieties, but it is easier to make eggplant parmesan with larger eggplant. In turn, I like using the smaller/skinnier eggplant in stir fries.
Eggplant is a tropical perennial. History shows that it was first grown in southern and Eastern Asia. It is part of the nightshade family related to both the tomato and potato, and at one time was thought to be poisonous. The flowers and leaves can be poisonous if eaten in large quantities. They don’t look particularly edible, so I’m not sure why someone would eat them. The name eggplant came from the white variety, and when small look quite a bit like an egg, hence the name. In Great Britain, they call this fruit “aubergine”, which also happens to be one of my favorite colors. Okay, it’s purple, but aubergine is a deep dark purple. Eggplant does like a hotter climate, which makes it ideal for us in Hawai’i. Although they can be affected by insects, I have to say we’ve had very little problem with bugs. The plants can get quite large here. They’ve grown almost as tall as I am (5’6″) which is nice because it keeps the fruit off the ground. The plant we have now, is relatively small, about a foot and a half off the ground, but it’s loaded. All the eggplant in the picture above came from that one plant.
China and then India are the largest producers of eggplant in the world, with Egypt, Turkey and Iran following closely behind. If you like eggplant and live in a warmer climate, I highly recommend growing this versatile plant. If you live in a colder climate, don’t plant it until you’re sure you are past any possible frosting. You can grow them in colder climates, but they will not do as well.
I love eggplant in all kinds of Italian and Asian dishes. If you’ve never cooked it before, there are a lot of recipes on line you can follow. We also love to grill it. We cut it up in slices and toss it bag of olive oil and garlic salt. Then we put them on the grill until nice and brown. I made eggplant parmesan tonight. I do a little cheat, because it can take a long time to make the “right” way. I cut the eggplant in circular pieces and lightly flour them. Then I fry them up and place on a paper towel to drain the oil a bit. Eggplant is 92% water, but it doesn’t seem like it. They will soak up oil very quickly. I made a quick sauce with canned tomatoes (we don’t have any tomatoes in the garden right now), some basil from the garden, and a little pesto. I then used lasagna noodles uncooked. Yes, uncooked. I put a little sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, broke up the lasagna noodles, place the cooked sliced eggplant on top, and then poured the rest of the sauce on top of the eggplant and dry noodles. I covered it with cheese (I use whatever cheese I have), and then cooked it at 350 degrees for an hour.
We had this for dinner tonight, and my daughter even liked it!Follow my blog
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