Monday, February 23, 2009

A Question for Kitchen Gardeners and Cooks:
What Kind(s) of Eggplant Do You Like To Grow and/or Eat?

No Respect for Raised BedsTopaz with Some Volunteer Bachelor's Buttons Last May

I'm working on a cookbook all about making the most of your seasonal bounty no matter where it comes from, and I would love your input. I'll be posting random questions here every few days, and all comments are greatly appreciated.

Is it just me, or are eggplants some of the most beautiful vegetables in the garden? I love the look of 'plain old' Black Beauties, but of course there are dozens of other varieties you can grow. Eggplants come in all shapes and sizes—and quite a few colors, too.

The first year I gardened in Missouri I had a bumper crop of eggplant, which is what happens when two dozen plants (what was I thinking?) decide to flourish. The only trouble I had was with hungry flea beetles turning the leaves of the young plants into lace, but although they looked terrible they survived just fine.

I've really slacked off on my eggplant production since then, though. Joe doesn't care for eggplant, and they simply aren't a real priority for me. This year, however, I'm jumping back on the eggplant bandwagon big time, and am going to try growing some interesting heirloom varieties from seed (which I will start in containers and then transplant into the garden once the soil warms up and we're well past our frost date), including these (descriptions from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog):

Pandora Striped Rose
A great market variety, teardrop-shaped fruit are a lovely lilac-rose color with thin white stripes. Strong, thornless plants give heavy yields; tender and delicious. A real eye catcher.

Turkish Orange
This beautiful heirloom comes from Turkey. The 3" round fruit are best cooked when they are green to light orange. This variety has very sweet and flavorful flesh. It imparts a strong, rich flavor to any dish. The small plants yield well. This variety is great for ethnic markets. Very ornamental looking.

Listada De Gandia
One of the most popular heirloom types, this one has 7"-long fruit that are white, with lovely bright purple stripes. They are so beautiful and have fabulous flavor, with sweet, tender flesh. This excellent variety hails from Spain, a country that is renowned for fine food.

So what are your favorite varieties of eggplant to grown and/or eat? And what do you do with bounty left on the vine that's a little past its prime? Cook, curse, compost?

© Copyright 2009, the inquiring foodie farm blog where it's quickly becoming obvious that I won't always have appropriate pictures to go with my questions, so when that happens I'll simply post random garden photos (rather than no photos) from my files, like this one of the annoying but cute Topaz relaxing in a raised bed as if she owns it.


  1. Last year, because I wasn't sure any of us would even like it, I planted ONE eggplant, a small Japanese variety. We had enough for eggplant parmesan and Ratatouille every week for five months. Seriously. My hens liked them, too.

    These year I'm going to go crazy and plant half a dozen. The plants are just so pretty!! I ordered Italian White, Rosa Bianca and Ma-Zu Purple Chinese from Baker Creek.

  2. I've always grown a single variety of "regular" eggplants (Purple Beauty?), but last year I planted 5 different varieties. Of course I don't remember their names, but the only one that produced at ALL was a beautiful white variety. I got all my plants from K-Mart (or some such place). But I will definitely try and grow that one again as it tasted incredible. I give any extras to friends who don't grow them. I've found you either love or hate eggplant. And my friends who love it don't have a big enough garden to include it.

  3. Perfect question, as I'll be planting my eggplants soon! I love almost all kinds, and keeping with my theme this year of planting things I can't get in my CSA. So I am planting:
    (1) Bambino eggplant
    (2) Fairy Tale eggplant
    (3) Rosa Bianca eggplant - a new addition decided this past week
    (4) Twinkle eggplant - another new addition - I can't seem to resist!

    I grew up eating all kinds of eggplant, largely because of my father's obsession with them. His came from his own family growing up, so I guess its a tradition. With the smaller/round ones, we basically cut a crosshatch in the top and then cross-stuff them with spices and chickpea flour. Larger ones are cooked often with cumin and paprika. I love the smoky flavor from the cumin. What else? We also love eggplant with fresh summer tomatoes - finding new pairings of each makes it interesting each time.

    With the eggplant that is a bit past its prime, I'll often some kind of eggplant dip, or puree it and use it as a thickener in sauces.

  4. I'm growing two varieties this year - the wonderful Listada de Gandia - very productive and great to cook - very meaty, and one new to me - Rosa Bianca. I also like the long Asian eggplants, but haven't grown them yet. I had some trouble with potato beetles last year, but after the Listada plants recovered, they did very well.

  5. I always grow Ichiban because it produces so well in my climate and there is never any bitterness when I cook them. I also usually grow Black Beauty and Rosa Bianca for Italian cooking. I have tried some of the unusual types but I have found that the tried and true varieties give me the best production. My garden is all about producing as much food as possible.

  6. Truth be told, I normally just plant the large dark purple ones...not even sure of the name. It's what I grew up with and that's one area I haven't experimented in yet (I've only been gardening for 3 years). But that Listada De Gandia variety looks tempting...maybe next year. If I have excess, I give them to my husband's parents...they love frying them. You can't freeze the stuff, can you?

  7. I'm an eggplant fiend! And while the kids kept saying they didn't like it, after growing some and using it in Eggplant Parm, (they didn't know it was in there), that became their favorite meal. Only after the "lasagna" was requested as a favorite did I tell them it was eggplant. ;)

    Last year only my Black Beauty's really produced and it wasn't enough. This year my Baker Creek order included, more Black Beauty, Florida Market, Applegreen and then seeds saved from last year.

    I have to say, my Applegreen aren't sprouting while the others are thriving so I'm not sure what that is about.

    They dehydrate well for casseroles, but storing eggplant is always a problem so often we feel innundated with them.

    I grow them because they are fantastic. Period. Great meat substitute for those who feel a need for "hearty" content. Super nutrition and a lovely plant to boot.

  8. I love Fairy Tale eggplant. It tastes great thinly sliced and on pizza. Unfortunately, I'm the only eggplant lover in my family, so there won't be any in the garden.

  9. I've grown Turkish Orange for two seasons now and I don't know that I'll repeat with them. They're a little bitter unless you eat them in the greeny-orange stage and my plants didn't produce all that well (they didn't get a full 8 hours sun, though, so that might have something to do with it).

    I'd like to grow some of the purple or black varieties but I think this year I'm sitting out eggplants. I'm excited to hear how your trials go, though!

  10. I'm planning to plant a small Japanese variety this year (don't know the name off the top of my head). I never ate eggplant growing up, and the first time I had it was when my husband cooked me his eggplant parmesan. I now think it's delicious, but still don't know of a whole lot of ways to use it so I'm wary of what would happen if I plant too much!

  11. I love Asian cooking, so I usually use Kamo(Japanese Variety),baked with miso and tofu or a Kyoto Egg that I love in salads...These seem to be a lot more mild in flavor,then other varieties.
    ..Also no need to peel the's rather thin.

  12. This is my first year in the garden and I am probably going to get an eggplant start from the farmers market as my seed starting area is full to bursting. My favorite thing to do with eggplant that is past it's prime is to grill it and add it to hummus. Yummus!

  13. I love eggplant but I'd never tried to grow it until two years ago. I thought the variety I bought was black beauty and I would go out and watch for the eggplant to get larger. At one point, I noticed that my beautiful small round eggplant was turning gold. That's when I realized, it was past it's prime. I can't remember the name of the variety that I'd bought.
    Last year I made sure to buy black beauty, but they never grew and I didn't get a single fruit.
    I might try again this year, haven't decided yet.

  14. Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant spread is great for overripe plant.
    Grill eggplant is good substitute for a burger. I enjoy any type of eggplant. Roasted eggplant freezes well and so I can make the spread in the middle of the winter instead of waiting for next summer's crops.

  15. This will be my first year growing eggplant. We're going to plant the Rosa Bianca variety because I'm a big fan of eggplant parmesana and it looked beautiful in the picture!

  16. I grew Fairy Tale last year but want a standard large plant this year. Can eggplant seeds be started directly in the ground? I'm still trying to figure out what can be seeded directly because I'm not set up to start seeds indoors yet.
    Sandy in St Louis

  17. I've never grown an eggplant but they'll be on my list next year as here in New Zealand they always seem woppingly expensive to buy. Same as fennel which I've grown this year and yet to harvest. When I get to the egg plants I'll be looking for a smallish size to grow. Look forward to reading other people's recommendations.

  18. I LOVE eggplant, but haven't successfully grown any yet here in the Willamette Valley, because:

    1. We had a slow season last summer, and everything came in late

    2. The Toddler kept picking them when they got to about 3 inches long. (!!!!)

    I might try again by planting some in a new bed out in the front yard, where the Toddler is not allowed to play.

    When I have tons of eggplant, I ROAST it whole (pricking skin so it won't explode), with some bell peppers of any color.

    Skin them, chop them, cook them up briefly with a little garlic, ground cumin, lemon juice, LOTS of olive oil, and some smoked paprika. Makes an INCREDIBLE dip/spread for just about anything.

    Umm, now I have to go buy some eggplants and peppers.

  19. I'm planting my first Kitchen Garden in TX this year, I've previously gardened in Minnesota - I love eggplant and have read the Black Beauty and Thai Longs will do best here in Texas. We'll see...

  20. I haven't had much success growing eggplant, but when I did, I grew Black Beauty. I ended up with one small eggplant and it was the most delicious one I'd ever eaten!

  21. Last summer I bought lots and lots of Rosa Bianca and Applegreen eggplants from the farmers market. They each have a slightly different taste from the regular big purple ones and they are a little different in texture. I froze lots of ratatouille for the winter and the batches with Rosa Bianca and Applegreen were much better. The regular eggplant stayed a little too firm (almost rubbery) and distracted from the overall texture of the ratatouille. I will be growing both types myself this year. They are delicious!

  22. I grew 'Lavender Touch' and converted some eggplant haters with it! One told me she dreamt about it. I love eggplant and find that haters usually haven't eaten it prepared properly. One friend told me her dad used to microwave it. Belch. I'm trying 7 different types this year. 3 Asian and 3 small fruiting ones and the ever present 'Black Beauty'. They're so bitter when they get old. I say compost!

  23. Last year was our first year growing eggplant. I started with 4, 2 purple (???) and 2 Rosa Bianca. One purple plant died and the other one only produced 3 fruits. The Rosa Bianca's produced like crazy and I ended up giving it away like it was zucchini. They made a wonderfully rich and mellow Eggplant Parmesan. I dipped the slices in egg and then herbed bread crumbs and baked them in the oven before adding to the "lasagna" It was inhaled quickly. We also like them fried in a skiff of oil. Nice and crispy.

    This year I'm not bothering with the purple. So, the list includes Rosa Bianca, Casper, and Rotonda Bianca Sfumata di Rosa. Mmmmmm.... can't wait!

  24. We had Issues with eggplant last year. First the seedlings all died. I do not know why. So we re-started. Then we had a cool, wet summer, so the heat-loving eggplants just did not want to grow. We started seed for an all-white variety (the name of which escapes me at the moment)--the taste was fine, but I couldn't get past the albino eggplant idea. And I think we got a total of four small fruits off our 6 plants. So, no overabundance problems for us.

    This year we're growing Rosa Bianca, an Italian variety that's purple and white and more rounded than elongated. We had some from our local farmstand and really liked them, so we're giving them a shot. Fingers crossed we get enough to make at least ONE meal of eggplant parmesan this year.

  25. I like long skinny eggplant, though mine have come from the farmers market and not my garden. We slice them up, butter each side and then dip them in seasoned bread crumbs. We bake them in the oven and serve them with pasta and red sauce. Leftovers freeze well too.

  26. The only real eating experience I have with it is eggplant parmesn, which I love, Husbandly One not so much. I have therefore necer even thought about growing lots of great eggplant recipes might change my mind!

  27. I haven't ordered seeds yet for eggplants this year, but for years I grew the Black Beauty which produces prodigiously but the leaf hoppers love it. I don't love them. I grew the Rosa and the Casper last year, they grew ok, but the stalwarts here in San Diego are the Ichibans and they just don't stop. We finally pulled the plants out in January as we were sick of them. We cook Thai and Chinese food so that is a good choice with a quick saute of garlic and ginger in oil. I love eggplant parmesan and while the black beauty is good for that, I can't see growing a boatload of it when I have limited space. I plan on growing the little pea aubergines to see what the fuss is about them.

  28. The people at Baker Creek are amazing. I've ordered seeds from them and have never had any problems. Where else can you get the "orange fleshed purple smudge" tomato. Eggplant isnt my thing, but, summer gardens are all about colour (at least for me) I'd go for the Turkish orange.

  29. Last year I had 1 eggplant and it was called "Epic" and I have NO idea where the farmer got the seed to grow it. But, that one plant put off a decent sized eggplant every week and a half, which was perfect for me. If I wanted to can some in a pasta sauce type thing, I would plant one more.
    I like the eggplant that put out the rounder type of eggplant, as opposed to the long slender varieties.

  30. Last year we grew a variety that I think was called "Ichban". It was a long, thinner deep purple variety that was VERY tasty. I wasn't able to find it from our main seed source this year, but I did find another skinny purple variety. We'll see how it turns out!

  31. Casper Eggplant (from your beloved Baker Creek) - cute, white, tasty and strange enough to scare away the demon-squirrels out to get anything. Small enough to eat without having tons of leftovers since I am the only aficionado in the house.
    I usually make an effort to give them away to friends/neighbors/house-warming presents if I have too many and they are about to go bad!

  32. I'm not sure the exact name, but my mom tends to grow Japanese eggplant. They're longer and skinnier than typical eggplant, which makes them smaller and, thus, easier to handle in bulk so fewer go into the composter. ;)

  33. I've always had better luck with the long thin Japanese varieties like Ichiban. I have wanted to grow Rosa Bianca for a couple of years now, but never got around to getting seeds. That last one you described sounds great; we'll have to try it. I love Eggplant! (We are having one tonight.) The small round green Thai ones are my least favorite - not much flavor, seem mostly seeds.
    I have tried doing something with the past their prime fruits, but they are just too bitter, even after salt-sweating them. I say Compost.
    Your kitty Topaz is adorable. Looks a bit like our Willow.


  34. I love love love eggplant. This was my first year growing any, and we had a Fairy Tale plant which was amazing.

    I'm very excited about finding your blog. We just moved into a new house and built raised garden beds last summer for the first time. It's quite an adventure for us, and your blog is a great resource for us beginners.

  35. I have no luck starting eggplant from seed so I'll be looking for some more Fairy Tale plants this year. I had two last year but plant to plant 4 this year.

  36. Last year I tried a white eggplant...that's all my garden shop had on it as a tag. I tell you was an awesome plant(plants, I grew 3). It was every bit of 5 feet tall..made it through the initial flea beetle infestation with ease and produced so many eggplants (small, delicious and not bitter in any way) that I was cruising the neighborhood and discreetly leaving them on door steps! During a storm the twine that I had it secured with snapped and the plants were so top heavy they tumbled down. I whacked 'em off to about 2 feet high and dag-on if they didn't grow right back and keep producing! Amazing plants. The root sytems were huge and I had to dig them out! My battery died in my camera that day or I would have taken a picture.
    Needless to say I am growing them again!

  37. We don't grow our own eggplants because no one in the family can eat enough to support even one plant. That limits our need to worry about the overdone ones.

    When I do buy eggplants from the local farmer's market, I really like Rosa Bianca eggplants. They are wonderful when small, about the size of tennis ball, and keep long enough that if my girls aren't in a mood for it I can eat it over a few days.

  38. I am currently growing Ichiban that have over wintered well here in Phoenix because it has been a warm one. I actually have many actual egg plants growing right now as I speak. Will probably harvest them later in the week.

    I have to say I never really know what to do with eggplants. Growing up in the UK we didn't eat them much I am always on the look out for good recipes! :)

  39. The only eggplant I grow now, after so many trials and errors, is Opus. I start it from seed.
    Opus is round, about the size of a baseball, and a champion grower. Even on the cool Oregon coast, you can grow and actually enjoy Opus. It makes a nice eggplant sandwich, fitting perfectly on a hamburger bun. That recipe is on the back of the seed packet called New Dimension.
    Like peppers, I wait until the summer weather is really here before I set them out. They don't mind growing in a gallon pot in the greenhouse until then.

  40. I generally plant 4-5 eggplants - half black beauty and half bianca rosa, a purple and white variety. We make only a very few dishes with eggplant. We make a lot of eggplant parmesan (some of which I freeze), and alternatively we sometimes stop after the breading-and-frying step and eat them with lemon (yum!). Unfortunately, frying them tends to upset my stomach, so we often just slice them and grill them in our grill pan (no peeling or salting required!), then top them with oil and vinegar, oil and salt, or oil and chopped herbs. We have made eggplant frittata as well, have chopped it up to use in tomato sauce for pasta, and my husband uses it in ratatouille. Every once in a while, I also make baba ganoush (sp?). The only way I have found to really preserve eggplant well, however, is by freezing it as eggplant parmesan. I tried slicing and grilling it and preserving it under oil once, and it turned to a disgusting mush.

    One final note - one year I grew about 5 plants of some variety of small white eggplant (they were a gift, so I don't know the exact variety). The texture was much creamier than the purple variety, which I didn't care for, but the flavor was good and if you're looking for a creamier texture, I'd recommend it.

  41. my favos are 'Rosa Bianca' ( they look like fabrage eggs to me) and the long japanese types ('Ai Qwa' and 'Japanese Millionaire') for quick indian curries and other asian inspired stir frys.

    I've grown 'Black Beauty' aka the grocery store eggplant and it does so-so, they never get as large as in the store before being over ripe but they are good roasters for baba ganoush ( I can't spell it but I like to eat it!)

    This year I am trying 'Little Prince' to grow in a container garden for my 4 year old to help take care of.

  42. Rosa Bianca, hands down. It's beautiful, it's reliable, and it's sweet and tender with and never seems to get bitter.

    It's the best eggplant I've ever grown, in over 25 years of gardening.

  43. Hi Everybody,
    How wonderful to hear from so many eggplant lovers! Thanks for all the great information—I really appreciate it.

  44. In Northern Alabama, Asian eggplant (Ichiban?) thrives. Long and slender,they don't get as large as Black Beauty and so they don't mind irregular watering.

    Last year one plant produced more fruit than we could eat! I also tried growing the variety Japanese White Egg, in a pot on the deck, with little success.

    Also, eggplant doesn't freeze well on it's own, but use it in Moussaka and THAT freezes very well! Greater than the sum of its parts, it is. :o)

  45. Black Beauty is about it for eggplant foor me. My family isn't big on eggplant, so I put in a couple of Black Beauties for my parents and me and call it a day.

  46. I like the Japanese Eggplant the best. Great to roll in olive oil and plop on the grill.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!