Saturday, June 26, 2010

What’s Growing ~ Ichiban Eggplant

The first veggie out of the garden this year is the Ichiban Eggplant. That’s pretty amazing. Usually, the eggplants take much longer, and the first food out would be summer squash or green beans. To be fair, the beans and squash were delayed by construction while the eggplants were thriving in gallon pots. Next year I’ll be able to plant a spring garden, so Ichiban had better enjoy its first place award this time because it won’t happen again!

And it looks like the second veggie out of the garden will be the White Lightening Eggplant.

Last year, when I did not have a garden, my Dad gave me some Ichibans out of his garden. He had gotten the transplants from a local greenhouse. I liked them so much that I ordered seeds for myself this year. I enjoy growing several different varieties of eggplant. They come in so many interesting shapes and sizes. I always think it’s a pity when I walk through the produce section of the super market and see trays full of uniform Black Beauty eggplants. The eggplant has so much more to offer even as an ornamental plant.

Round Mauve Eggplant

Ichiban is a Japanese hybrid. It produces long thin fruits (a bit larger than a banana and similarly shaped) and is suitable for cooler climates and containers. The plant is very vigorous and I had good luck with germination and growth, unlike some of the fussier eggplant varieties that seem to lack the will to live.

So what are my plans for these little eggplants? Usually I slice them, sweat them in salt in the refrigerator for a couple for hours, dust them with corn meal and fry them in oil. My mother made some wonderful Baba Ganoush not long ago. Baba Ganoush is a Middle Eastern food similar to hummus or guacamole.

Here’s Mom’s recipe:
Bake eggplant about 40 minutes at 400 (poke it like baking a potato)

cool & pull the peel

add sour cream, garlic powder or canned garlic, Hot Chili Sesame Oil (or Hoisin Sauce which the recipe originally called for)

put all in blender and blend

salt to taste

She served it to me on corn chips with lime flavoring so I think this recipe sounds like it would be really good too:

Chili Lime Baba Ganoush

· 2 medium eggplants
· 3 cloves garlic
· 2 tbsp tahini (vegan sesame seed paste)
· 2 tbsp olive oil
· 2 tbsp lime juice
· 1 tsp chili powder
· 1/4 tsp salt
· 1/2 tsp cumin

Slice eggplant in half, and roast in 400 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until soft.

Allow to cool slightly, and then scoop out inside of eggplant, leaving skin behind.
In a blender or food processor, combine eggplant and remaining ingredients until smooth.

Fun Eggplant Facts:

  • Eggplant is native to southern India and Sri Lanka.

  • It is part of the nightshade (Solanacene) family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, and chili peppers.

  • Like all other edible members of the nightshade family, the eggplant is a fruit.

  • Eggplant and other nightshade plants contain nicotine, though to a lesser extent than tobacco.

  • Eggplant and other members of the nightshade family may worsen the symptoms of arthritis.

  • According to a 5th century Chinese scroll, fashionable Chinese women used to make a dye out of the skin of purple eggplants and polish their teeth with it until they were a shiny gray.

  • An eggplant is almost 95% water.

  • It is called "eggplant" in the United States, Canada, and Australia because the first eggplants in those countries were purely ornamental and featured egg-shaped white and yellow fruit. Today this variety of eggplant is called "White Egg."
  • In Britain, it is called "aubergine," the same as in French.

  • The Italians call it "melanzane," which means "crazy apple."

  • The act of salting and rinsing eggplant to reduce bitterness is called "degorging." An old practice, it is not as necessary these days because modern eggplants are less bitter.

  • Salting eggplant will reduce the amount of oil absorbed in cooking.

The bumble bees are also enjoying the Ichiban.

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