Let me see a show of hands, out there, from everyone who loves eggplant.
Well, if you’re raising your hand, then you’re in good company, ’cause I love it, too.
If you aren’t raising your hand, keep reading on, and maybe I’ll be able to make an eggplant lover (or at least liker) out of you!
So, why eggplant? What’s so great about this particular garden plant? Well, let me tell you.
1. First, eggplant are totally easy to grow. They are easy to start, indoors, from seed and they handle potting up and transplanting really well. They are a very hearty plant. Eggplant has also been one of the most reliable crops in my garden. Year after year, it thrives and produces a ton of beautiful and tasty purple fruit.
(Rosa Bianca Italian Eggplant)
That’s not to say that eggplants are not susceptible to pests and disease. They are. However, for all of the years that I’ve been growing eggplant, I haven’t experienced any pest or disease problems. I was just reading an article, at the Northeastern IPM Center, about eggplant pests, though, and discovered that the best way to organically protect the aubergine crop from its greatest threats, the Flea beetle and Colorado potato beetle, is to use crimson clover as a cover crop. According to the article, Mr. Cerruti Hooks of the University of Maryland, and his team “observed similar [Colorado Potato Beetle] numbers in sprayed and unsprayed crimson clover subplots, showing that crimson clover, as a cover crop, works as effectively as routine organic pesticide applications in this setting.” That’s great news! So, to ensure a pest-free, organic crop of eggplant, again, next year, looks like I’ll be interplanting it with crimson clover.
2. The second reason why I love eggplant, so much, is purely aesthetic. They are such a pretty plant to have growing in the garden. The foliage is pretty, the flowers are pretty, and so is the fruit. If I were a city dweller, I’d have these things growing in my front yard – they are that pretty!
3. The third reason why I love them so is because they are highly nutritious and super healthy for ya! Eggplant has a ton of fiber, which helps protect your digestive system. It is also a great source of antioxidants. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, “the predominant phenolic compound found in all varieties [of eggplant] tested is chlorogenic acid, which is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues. Benefits attributed to chlorogenic acid include antimutagenic (anti-cancer), antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral activities.” The skin of the eggplant also contains a powerful phytonutrient called Nasunin, which has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage, and act as an iron chelator, helping remove excess iron from our bodies which “lessens free radical formation with numerous beneficial results, including protecting blood cholesterol (which is also a type of lipid or fat) from peroxidation; preventing cellular damage that can promote cancer; and lessening free radical damage in joints, which is a primary factor in rheumatoid arthritis” (whfoods.com). Now, I don’t really think about all of this while I’m eating an eggplant, but, being armed with this information does encourage me to get more of it into my diet.
4. The final reason why I love eggplant is because I love the taste. Yeah, really. I love the taste of eggplant – especially when it’s roasted. A lot of people tell me that they don’t like the taste of eggplant because it tastes bitter to them. Maybe it’s the type of eggplant that I grow (Rosa Bianca, Ping Tung, Aswaad). Maybe it’s the way that I prepare it, but I don’t taste a lot of bitterness in my eggplant. I just really love it.
Here are three of my favorite ways, with links to the recipes, to prepare this deliciously wonderful summer veggie…
- Ping Tung Eggplant Cake by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds- More like a sweet cornbread, than a birthday cake. I use applesauce in place of the oil to cut down on the fat. Use 2 eggs, if you don’t have egg replacer on hand.
- Roasted Eggplant Dip by the Barefoot Contessa- great to have on hand for late night snacking with pita bread crackers.
- Eggplant and Mozzarella Melt by Martha Stewart – a hearty meal that even non-eggplant lovers will enjoy, I think! I use a whole grain bread, fresh mozzarella, a homemade pizza sauce, and fresh basil when it’s in season to make it even healthier.
I actually think that when people say they don’t like eggplant, what they really mean is that they don’t know what to do with it. If you’re one of these people, why not give one or all of these recipes a try, and then let me know what you think. Did I make an eggplant lover or at least liker out of you?
If you grow eggplant, what are your favorite varieties? Do you have a favorite eggplant recipe to share?