Growing Eggplant with Success in SeattleSeptember 05, 2008
The 2008 vegetable gardening year has been full of surprises. I can’t seem to get a decent tomato, snow peas produced from April until mid-August, bush beans turned into climbing beans, green beans produced yellow wax beans, brussel sprouts turned into cabbage, and the list goes on. What to remember? Every year is different and just because a nursery label or seed packet promises green bush beans or brussel sprouts doesn’t mean you’ll get those in the end.
One of the positive surprises (and don’t get me wrong by my rant above, I had lots of success amid some strange and dissapointing happenings) was producing decent globe eggplant. I bought tiny starts at the Tilth edible sale earlier in the year. They were so small I was afraid they’d succum to fungal infections in my little greenhouse during the cool spring, and I refuse to apply fungicide, so it was sink or swim baby. They plugged along with a bit of TLC, and I potted them up to 1 gallons in early June and 4 gallons by July.
In late July they started blooming; I hadn’t taken them out of the greenhouse. The weather was just too cold for these heat lovers. I had noticed that my pollenators were few and far between in the greenhouse, so I bought a cheap eye shadow brush and used it to hand pollenate my eggplant flowers. And, it worked!
By mid-August the weather did heat up, briefly, and I moved the plants into a hot sunny location. And, they continued to thrive. I stopped the hand pollenating and relied on the birds and the bees to do their work, and it seems they did. More fruit formed.
Then the weather turned cool and rainy again, and a slew of flowers died on the branch. One fruit gave up the ghost to a fungal infection, but I removed it before the rest of the plant was infected, and I returned the plants to the greenhouse while the weather was cool.
The weather has warmed again for at least this week, so the plants are again in the garden where they seem to do better (assuming the weather cooperates) than in the greenhouse. (I admit this greenhouse thing is tricky in a summer like we’re having).
Last night I harvested two of the largest fruit from these plants and made the pasta sauce that follows. I used roma tomatoes that a friend gave me from her garden, garlic from Summer Run farms, paneer from Appel farms, and basil from my greenhouse. The result was delicious. When the little eggplants now ripening come in, I’ll have to make it again!
Roasted Summer Vegie Pasta Sauce
- 2-3 small eggplants roasted whole over coals or in oven until soft
- 12-14 roma tomatoes, seeded, tossed in olive oil, salt & sugar and slow roasted in warm oven for 2-3 hours (make a lot of these; they’re amazing & you’ll never have enough)
- 1 bulb garlic, roasted until soft
- 1/4 lb paneer cheese cubed, tossed in olive oil & roasted in oven for 15 minutes to brown.
- Olive oil
- 1/2 fresh tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1 fresh garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup half & half or cream (optional)
- grated parmesan cheese
- cooked linguini or other wide ribbon pasta; tossed with 1 Tbs butter (optional)
Heat olive oil in wide pan over medium heat. Add fresh minced garlic and saute briefly. Add chopped fresh tomatoes. Peel the roasted eggplant and chop into small cubes. (It may turn to mush, but it’ll be tasty anyway). Add to tomato mixture. Squeeze pulp from 4-6 roasted garlic cloves & add to pan. Saute briefly to mix flavors. Add chicken broth and turn heat to low. Let simmer for several minutes.
Add roasted paneer to mixture and simmer a few more minutes. Stir in fresh basil and cream. Stir until warm.
Toss together with buttered pasta. Scoop into bowls and top with chopped roasted tomato and parmesan cheese.