|Eggplant from my 2013 crop|
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).
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.
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:-)