You say ‘aubergine’ but I say ‘eggplant’

eggplant

Our cup runneth over this time of year! Recent trips to our farmers market and local stands has my kitchen counters laden with huge quantities of fruits and vegetables. I can’t help myself! I’m finding myself looking up those recipes from last summer about canning and freezing and drying. Not everyone likes eggplant as much as I do, but it could be thought of as an art installation. Just look at those purple and white beauties.

Eggplant is an ancient plant, a member of the nightshade family, as are tomatoes, potatoes and peppers. Ever wondered where they got the name “eggplant”? Evidently in the 1700s, the typical eggplant was small and yellow or white. It looked like an egg. As early as 544 A.D., the eggplant was written about in an ancient Chinese agriculture document, according to our friends at Wikipedia. By the way, plan on asking for an “aubergine” if you are in a restaurant in France, Germany or England.

Eggplants are considered pretty healthy because they contain vitamins B1 and B6 and are rich in antioxidants. Note that rich purple color. You can find the traditional long, purple eggplant, the almost white Fairy Tale, and some that are very white. If you search seed catalogs, you can discover round pinkish options too. Rodale’s Organic Life website tells us that the eggplant (Solanum melongena) is native to India where it grows wild. Folks in Southeast Asia, Sicily, North Africa and Southern Spain have plenty of this wonderful veggie because it loves the heat. The Moors brought the eggplant to Spain and Sicily and Southern France in the 8th century.

You may want to try your hand at growing eggplant. They can be planted when nighttime temps are above 50 degrees. Put them into the garden, raised bed or even a large container. They will need 100-140 days to mature. You can plant from tiny starter plants or seeds. Their seeds need to soak before planting. Once the plants come up, pinch off the first set of flowers. This will encourage the plant to grow a good root system. You can stake them if you like. They are ready when the skin is super glossy. You can store eggplant for a couple of weeks in your refrigerator. But why store it when you can use it?

Simple Eggplant Parmesan

Peel and cut eggplant into 1/2 inch slices.

Sprinkle salt on eggplant slices and allow to sit for 3 hours, rinse, then dry off.

Mix 1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese together in bowl.

Dip eggplant slices one at a time into two beaten eggs in a bowl then into breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange coated eggplant slices in single layer on greased baking sheet and brown for 5 minutes each side.

Cover bottom of 9x13 casserole dish with spaghetti sauce, then layer of eggplant slices, then slices of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheese layer. Sprinkle top with basil and bake in pre-heated 350-degree oven 35 minutes.

Joette Reger is an avid gardener and prides  herself on staying up-to-date on the latest gardening activities and tips. She can be reached by e-mail at joreger [at] msn [dot] com and on Facebook at “Gardengate with Joette Reger.”

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