When we have some less common veggies in the garden, I always try to cook something with a few of them to show how they might be used and to give them a fair taste test. Many of you know that I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I decided that I should give an eggplant dish a try anyway. I also made stewed okra and tomatoes, because I’ve never really cooked with okra before and wanted to try it in a form other than breaded and fried.
First up: Thai Fried Eggplant with Basil
I like Thai food, and we had all the recipe and sauce ingredients on hand, so it worked out well. I used the green Oriental eggplant, the yellow ‘Escamillo’ sweet peppers and one of the purple sweet peppers, one of the Round Purple Asian eggplants, a red onion from my home garden, and a couple ‘Gong Bao’ peppers from my home garden in place of the serranos. I also used Thai basil rather than regular sweet basil.
I found the sauce to be a little heavy, flavor-wise. It probably needed a bit more acid, maybe some lime juice. Overall, it wasn’t bad (for eggplant). The texture still isn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t completely distasteful.
Next up: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
I used the okra and tomatoes from the garden, including some of the big okra that is larger than would typically be ideal. The ‘Ladyfinger’ okra that we are growing is supposed to be tender and usable even at larger sizes, so I wanted to test that out. I would say that it was nice and tender after the stewing, up to about 10″ long. After that, the pieces were still a bit fibrous and woody. I doubt a longer cook time would have solved the problem.
Both recipes were fairly easy, did a nice job featuring the vegetables, and were tasty. If you are looking for a recipe to use for eggplant or okra, give these a try!
Another sweltering week, another Friday photoessay! Let’s take a break from our Tomato Day preparations to take a quick look around the Demonstration Garden.
I would say that we have reached the midpoint of summer in the garden. While many plants are still going to grow and mature, the tomato plants have reached maturity. With the usual onset of insects and diseases, there’s a lot of downhill to go from here. We will also be planting a range of things for fall over the next few weeks.
This is the buckwheat that we planted first, following the lettuce. You can see that it has put on significant growth in the 5-6 weeks it has been planted and has started flowering. It has not yet started going to seed. We cut this buckwheat back and then put about 2/3 of it in the compost bin and the remainder we spaded into the soil.
Eggplant can be a little bit tricky to determine when it is ready to harvest. Like many vegetables, it is typically harvested at the botanically immature stage. It can actually be harvested at almost any size, up to the point where it starts to mature. Once sign of that maturity is when the color goes from bright and glossy (like the eggplant on the far right of the picture) to slightly faded and dull (center). When we cut into the dull colored eggplant, we see that the seeds are brown rather than white, a sign of maturity. While the eggplant can still be eaten at this stage, the seeds are much tougher and will make the texture of the eggplant less enjoyable to eat.
We have started picking a few of the Purple Bumble Bee cherry tomato, and so far it is a bit more pink and green than purple/maroon and green. The flavor is decent, but not spectacular.
The ‘Esterina’ cherry tomato has been very impressive. It has had several large clusters ripen already and has more to come. The flavor is also very sweet. So far it is definitely a winner!
The peppers are maturing nicely and I’m looking forward to seeing how they all perform. However, with some of the wind and rain storms that we’ve had, several of the plants are leaning over and exposing the fruit to more sun. Hence the sunscald on the two peppers shown in this picture. Fruits with sunscald should be picked to prevent the development of disease. A mature fruit with sunscald can usually be eaten if the damaged part is trimmed off and no diseases have developed.
Come see us Saturday at Tomato Day!
Our second garden bed this year is featuring things purple. I think the name that has waffled between “K-State Purple Garden” and “For the Love of Purple” garden. At any rate, we are growing and eating purple plants!
As you can see, we have gone a little bit crazy trying to fit as many different purple plants into the garden as possible. (Full disclosure – there are a couple things that are white too, just to highlight the K-State-ness of it and to help show the purple better!)
The garden plan pictured above is not the final plan, just a temporary plan to make sure we have space for everything. We hope to rearrange the plants into a more ornamental-edible garden before we are ready to plant.
1 & 2: ‘Cardinal’ Basil has attractive purple flower heads while ‘Aromatto’ basil has purple stems, flower bracts, and purple-green foliage.
3 & 8. ‘Goodwin Creek’ and ‘Otto Quast’ Lavenders both bloom purple the first growing season. We grow these varieties as annuals here.
4 & 6. ‘Benary Giant Purple / White’ Zinnias are the most common cutflower zinnia. We’ll have both purple and white varieties.
5. ‘Dara’ Ammi is actually a falsa Ammi that is a carrot. But this carrot doesn’t often develop a good root and does bloom readily with a range of white to purple flowers.
7. Vinca and Gomphrena will add some more purple flowers to the mix.
9. ‘Integro’ is a red / purple cabbage with medium sized heads.
10. ‘Kolibri’ is a purple, hybrid kohlrabi.
11. ‘Ip Ssam Hong’ is a purple chinese cabbage that doesn’t form solid heads.
12. ‘Amethyst’ is a spring radish with purple skin and white flesh.
13. ‘Thurinus’ lettuce is a dark red/purple romaine that we grew in the garden last year and decided to reprise.
14. ‘Hansel’ Eggplant is an All America Selections winner from 2008 that features small, slender, dark purple fruit that are great for grilling.
15. ‘Gretel’ Eggplant is a 2009 AAS winner that has fruit similar to ‘Hansel’ but white.
16. ‘Islander’ is a bell pepper that has lavender skin which then ripens from yellow to orange to red.
17. Purple Cayenne pepper is just that – a cayenne pepper with purple fruit and a purple tinge to the leaves as well.
18. ‘Purple Star’ is another purple bell pepper. It starts as a dark amethyst purple and ripens to red.
19. ‘Royal Snow’ snow peas are a purple podded snow pea. Most descriptions say that purple podded peas are a little bit bitter, so we will have to try it and report back!
20. ‘Purple King’ pole bean will be planted on the same trellis as the snow peas, but in the mid-late summer for a fall crop. As we discovered last year, fall planted pole beans are much more productive than spring.
21. ‘Black Beauty’ tomato is one of the newer varieties with the very dark purple / “indigo” coloration of the skin. This one is more a slicer size with red interior flesh. This one is purported to have great flavor.
22. ‘Fairy Tale’ eggplant is another AAS winner from 2005. It also has small fruit but with white and purple streaks. We have grown this before, but several years ago.
23. ‘Purple Bumblebee’ tomato is a cherry tomato that is a more traditional purple tomato color – similar to chocolate cherry – but with metallic green stripes.
24. ‘Graffiti’ Cauliflower is a purple-headed cauliflower. It is the only hybrid purple cauliflower, and has by far the best purple coloration of any purple variety. We will be planting this for fall.
25. ‘Rosalind’ Broccoli is a purple-headed broccoli. This will also be fall-planted.
26. ‘Purple 68’ Carrot is a variety that has deep purple coloration all the way to the center of the root. It is best grown in the fall.
27. ‘Da Hong Summer’ is a purple bok choy that is bolt-resistant.
28. ‘Redbor’ Kale is a purple kale that has deeper color the colder it gets in the fall.
I know this is the post you have all been waiting for breathlessly – the post detailing which eggplant varieties I recommend for planting again. (Hey, I can be unbiased. I just put myself into the mental place where I understand that some people thing planting eggplant regularly is a good idea.)
In reality, the results of the eggplant trial are pretty straightforward. Almost everything did pretty well, and they are still producing now, despite being left to the onslaught of insects for the last month.
Top Performers (Highly Recommended for Planting)
Millionaire – Long, dark purple Asian type. This was the earliest producer and was in clear competition with Green Goddess for highest yielding. The skin was fairly tender.
Green Goddess – Long, green skinned Asian type. This variety was fairly early and very high yielding. It was probably a little higher yielding than Millionaire, but it was hard to keep track. The skin was nice and tender and the flesh had a very sweet, floral scent.
Orient Charm – Long, white and lavender Asian type. This one was more uniformly skinny than the other two, but it also had tender skin and excellent yields.
Good Performers (Recommended for Planting)
Traviata – This is the traditional purple Italian type. It did have a tougher skin than most of the others, but it yielded well and the fruit looked good.
Clara – This was the traditional white Italian type. It did well, although was a little later to start producing. The fruit quality was good and yields were good.
Mediocre Performers (Might be Worth Another Try)
Calliope – This variety started out fairly strong but didn’t maintain good yield throughout the summer. The plants were smaller, so it may just have gotten overshadowed by its larger neighbors. If you want a smaller fruit size, this one might be worth another try.
Rosa Bianca – This heirloom was the lowest yielding of all the varieties and the fruit was definitely an odd shape. If those are concerns for you, then this may not be the best choice.
Eggplant is my new favorite vegetable. The wonderful varieties growing in the demo garden have convinced me not to overlook this vegetable any more!. My favorite ones to cook with are the asian and varigated colored ones. You have to give them a try, I think you will be pleasantly suprised by how good they really are!
1 teaspoon oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup coarsely chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried) basil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried) oregano
1 medium eggplant, sliced about 1/4” thick
1 large tomato, sliced very thin
8 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1. Wash your hands and work area.
2. Preheat oven to 4250 F.
3. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion
until tender, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add chopped tomatoes, basil and oregano. Cook gently over medium low heat for 10 minutes.
5. Spread half of the mixture over the bottom of an 8 x 8” baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
6. Add half of the eggplant slices then half of the tomato slices. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over the top.
210 calories 3 calorie points
12 grams fat 1 carbohydrate choice
11 grams carbohydrate Exchange: 2 vegetables, 2 lean meat, 1 fat
4 grams fiber This recipe is high in calcium, fiber, and in
430 mg sodium vitamins C and A.