We have never been particularly successful growing eggplants in the garden, but this year we were faced with quite a strange experience. We thought we would try white eggplants, a traditional Santorini variety, and bought a few heirloom seeds from a British nursery. For the first time, the plants seemed to thrive and fill with purple blossoms; the flowers soon turned into fruit that filled our three plants. Small white little eggplants, which we expected to grow to reasonable size; but in vain…
Our neighbor’s regular eggplants, and the last of our tiny white ones.
For weeks they remained the same, only some of them turned yellow. Their size was much smaller than a regular egg –from which eggplants took their name, when they were introduced to southern Europe from India. Apparently we had planted mini-eggplants, a bit larger than quail eggs, which we didn’t know existed as a variety.
I really didn’t know what to do with them, as Costas insisted we needed to harvest them before they filled with seeds. He offered to fry them in our outside kitchen. So I slashed them in half, salted them heavily, and let them drain for a couple of hours; then rinsed them, patted them dry with kitchen paper, sprinkled them with all-purpose flour and yellow cornmeal, and Costas shallow-fried them in olive oil. They were absolutely delicious and addictive!
Deliciously crunchy, shallow-fried tiny eggplants.
I decided to use the next batch of crunchy tiny fried eggplants as a complement to our fresh tomato and pepper bulgur pilaf, and I thought that they would be a fantastic addition to the traditional penne alarrabiata, my favorite spicy pasta dish; but we had no more eggplants to try it. I could also pickle them, I thought, stuffing them with garlic and chopped celery, or even use them to make the unusual Greek spoon sweet, which is traditionally made with unripe regular purple eggplants, simmered in heavy syrup. Plenty of ideas to try next summer, when we will plant the seeds we collected from this year’s crop. Let’s hope we will succeed, as each season is so different, and often plants we think will grow well, don’t. For example, this summer both our zucchini and our tomato crop were dismal failures. But most of our neighbors on the island had a bad, or very bad tomato season. We blame it on the persistent heat and drought –we haven’t seen a drop of rain since early April.
Our plants with flowers and tiny white eggplants.
Elisabeth Michilli posted this picture of ‘red eggplants from Basilicata’.
In the meantime, my friend Paula Wolfert showed me, via skype, the small red eggplants she harvested from her garden in Sonoma. She told me they were called ‘Greek eggplants,’ but I have no idea where they got that name from, as I have never seen them here. Elisabeth Minchilli has a picture of the exact same brightly colored eggplants, and calls them “red eggplants from Basilicata.’
As far as I know the Greek long or the large round eggplants, dark purple or lighter, and the mottled with white, which we call Tsakonikes, are the basic Greek varieties. I am still researching to find more, and and will come back if I find any new information.