Solanum melongena or aubergine, brinjal, or to us, eggplant... native to India and a wonderful addition to ones vegetable garden.
Know however, that it is a member of the nightshade family, that neither the flower nor leaves are edible _ only the fruit can be eaten. Additionally, eggplant contains oxalates, which can cause difficulty for people with pre-existing gallbladder or kidney conditions.
However, should you enjoy it as much as we do in the summer, then you'll like knowing it is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, vitamin B-1 (thiamin), B-6, and foliate. US Agricultural Service researchers in Beltsville, Maryland, found that eggplants have a rich source of phenolic (antioxidant) compounds.
They come in various shapes and color, but our favorites include the Long Purple, Ichiban, and the Italian_ Melanzana 'Violetta lunga', the latter which was introduced to us by Robin. This heirloom has outperformed the S. 'Rosa Bianco' 20:1. Thank you Robin for sharing the seed with us, along with this beautiful Zucchini 'Cocozelle' (pictured above).
Because eggplants are heat loving, we decided to grow them in raised beds in the hoop house this year. They require good compost, well-draining soil, and moisture. Charming blossoms and foliage, the longs have a beautiful deep purple glossy color, thin skins, a relatively sweet taste, and are picked when they are gently firm to the touch. Be careful of the prickly thorns on the stem and calyx. When harvesting, cut the fruit off the plant rather than twist or pull. Should you need additional information, here is a source from the University of Illinois Extension.
Eggplant Parmesan is a favorite of ours, but also a Bruschetta (pronounced brusketta) as an appetizer; actually it is almost a meal in itself. A nice glass of wine (or not), and you and your honey will think you are in heaven. This is one I have made for many years, and did so again yesterday.
Grilled Eggplant Bruschetta with Basil, Tomato and Feta from Diana's kitchen
3-4 long eggplants (about 1 pound), unpeeled, sliced lengthwise
1 medium (Walla Walla) sweet onion, sliced into whole rings
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
freshly ground pepper
3 Tablespoons chopped basil leaves
Fresh tomatoes (peeled) or one 14-oz can peeled Italian plum tomatoes, drained, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Feta cheese
Remove the ends of the eggplant and discard. Slice the eggplant in lengthwise 1/4 inch slices and brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slice the sweet onion into whole rings, about 1/4 inch in thickness, and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper. Heat grill to high, brush grates with vegetable oil, and grill the eggplant and onions for 2-3 minutes on each side, until slightly charred. Remove and cool.
Once cool enough to touch, slice the grilled eggplant into 1/4 inch strips, then into 1/4 inch bite sized pieces. Chop the onion as well.
Warm 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add garlic, crushed red pepper, touch of salt, black pepper and sauté a few minutes. Add chopped basil, stir; add the tomatoes and cook on low heat until any liquid has evaporated, about 3-5 minutes. Add the diced eggplant, onion and balsamic vinegar. Heat and season with any additional salt or pepper to taste.
Just before serving, add the feta cheese, combine and transfer the bruschetta to a serving bowl. Arrange the bread on a serving platter, olive oil side up. Pile high the bruschetta. I hope you enjoy it as much as we.
Crostini or "little toasts" can be made using a baguette or a nice course multi-grain bread (our favorite) cut into small 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Place the oven rack in the upper part your oven and preheat to 450°F. Place bread slices on a flat baking sheet, brush one side with olive oil, turn the slices oil side down, and bake about 5-6 minutes until the slices are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and rub the toast with a halved garlic clove (or not, depending upon your preference). We have also grilled the bread slices for 1-2 minutes per side.