Sustainable Organic Gardening

Enchanted by eggplant

I can’t resist having eggplants in the garden, with their glossy, plump, dark purple fruit and soft, grey-green foliage – they make me feel like a such a successful gardener! I reckon these plants can give most cottage garden flowers a run for their money when it comes to splashes of colour. To me they represent beauty and abundance, as well as being the basis for a myriad of fabulous dishes.

A wide range of different types are available

Striped eggplants are very pretty

Eggplants love full sun, good drainage and a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Plant low-growing veges like lettuce around them so they’re not shaded and protect the plants from frost. Avoid planting eggplants in beds previously occupied by their close relatives tomatoes, capsicums, chillies and potatoes. Pick your fruit when plump and firm – if you press it with your thumb, there should just be a little bit of ‘give’. Modern varieties of eggplants – including all those from seed we sell at Green Harvest – have sweet flesh; their young fruit do not need to be salted before cooking.

The classic Mediterranean type ‘Black Beauty’ produces large fruit suitable for stuffing; the beautiful, purple-striped ‘Greek’ and pretty pink and white ‘Rosa Bianca’ are ideal for moussaka, vege stacks and baba ghanoush; long, skinny eggplants such as ‘Little Finger’ are great for marinating; the Thai-style ‘Mini Violet Ruby’ is perfect for grilling on skewers, curries and stir-fries. When you slice the fruit of any of these varieties the seeds should still be completely white, not starting to turn brown.

Of course, enthusiastic planting often leads to a glut and it’s a good strategy to be well-armed with a range of recipes when this occurs. Otherwise you’ll be forced to sneak fruit into your friends’ bags when they visit. Luckily there are many luscious eggplant dishes to try; these are two favourites.

Marinated Eggplant

A sensational, easy to prepare antipasto dish. It keeps well in the fridge and you may as well make a big batch because it is very moreish!
Suitable for vegans, gluten free

  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced 1cm thick
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 cup olive oil

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat and fry the eggplant slices until just cooked through. Meanwhile, whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Place the eggplant slices in the marinade; cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Cut slices into chunks and serve with other tasty nibbles.

Imam bayildi – ‘The Imam Swooned’

Large round eggplants are good for stuffing

Suitable for vegans, gluten free

  • 2 medium sized eggplants
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red onions, finely diced
  • 1 level tsp freshly-ground cumin
  • 2 or 3 good pinches of sea salt
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, diced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Mint or coriander leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, score the flesh with a crisscross pattern and scoop out the flesh, leaving a ‘shell’ about 5mm thick.

Brush a baking dish – big enough to fit the eggplants shells in side-by-side -with oil; brush the eggplants with oil. Bake for 25 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions fairly briskly. Add the chopped eggplant flesh, garlic, cumin, capsicum and the salt. Lower the heat and fry everything gently until the eggplant is very soft (10 minutes).

Halve the tomatoes and fold them in, then divide the mixture between the eggplant shells. Squeeze lemon juice over everything and bake for another 20 minutes. Allow the aubergines to rest for 10 minutes before transferring to a serving plate and sprinkling with mint or coriander.

Written with help from Earthwise Gardener.

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Posted in Kitchen, Organic Gardening

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