Booyong Conservation RetreatGardeningOrchardVegetable Garden

Eggplants

Eggplant is one of my favourite vegetables and there are so many wonderful varieties to grow. This year we’ve grown Black Beauty and Tsakoniki (Purple and White striped skin).

Growing – Eggplants like to be grown in full sun and prefer a long and hot growing season. They do not like cold or frost Seeds can be sown late September to December, spacing 50 cm apart. Plant in rich fertilised well-drained soil.

Care – Mulch lightly, ensuring the stems are not touching mulch to avoid rot. Fertilise with aged chicken manure or pellets during growing and especially when fruiting. Keep moist (not waterlogged) during the summer months to ensure healthy fruit and stake the plant as the fruit can get quite heavy.

Like tomatoes, pinch out terminal points for a healthier plant.

Pruning – Leaves at the base of the plants can be cut back to improve ventilation, produce more fruit and reduce the chance of disease.

Companion Planting – As Eggplants belong to the tomato family, don’t grow them anywhere tomatoes, eggplants or potatoes have been planted during the previous three years.

Beans (provide nitrogen), Lettuce, Kohlrabi (deters flea bugs), Amarinth, Spinach, Marigolds (deter insects), Oregano (repels pests), Borage (attracts beneficial insects), Nasturtiums (attract aphids away from crops) and Tarragon are good companion plants for eggplants.

Pests and Diseases – Lace bugs and flea beetles are common pests of Eggplants. We’ve found worms and snails also love eggplants, so be sure to check the flesh for entry points when harvesting.

Harvest – Harvest February till April or when fruit is smooth, firm and glossy.

Eggplants keep in the fridge crisper for several days.

Propagation – Grow by seed, starting in doors as they prefer warm soil, seeds can be soaked over night prior to planting.

Health Benefits – Similar to many other vegetables, eggplants are high in nutrients and antioxidants.

Eating – Eggplants are best known in Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Some people recommend salting the eggplant before cooking to extract bitter juices. I actually don’t do this when I grow my eggplants but if you choose to do so, cut the eggplant in slices of pieces, scatter with salt and leave for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towel prior to use.

Some of our favourite eggplant recipes include:

Stephanie Alexander has a recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana in her book “The Cooks Companion” which is lovely. This book was a actually wedding present from our friends Darren and Zoe and one of our simple favourites.

Layer slices of friend eggplant in a deep dish with fresh tomato sauce parmesan cheese. Bake at 180 degrees until chees is golden and the dish is bubbling.

For another quick eggplant recipe we use MDH Baingan Bhartaa Masala spice mix and follow the packet instructions:

  • Roast a large (approx 400g) aubergine on a low heat on all sides until the skin turns black.
  • Remove from heat and peel off the skin. Wash and chop into large chunks.
  • Heat 50g cooking oil in a flat pan and fry 15g chopped ginger & garlic until light brown. Add 100g chopped onions and fry till golden brown. Add 100g chopped tomatoes and cook until soft.
  • Add aubergine pieces and half cup of peas. Sprinkle over 15g Baingan Bhartaa Masala & salt to taste. Mix well (add a little water if required).
  • Stir and fry until it turns light brown. Dress with chopped coriander. Serve with roti or pitta bread.

If we are especially hungry we will add some lentils or chickpeas for extra sustenance.

Pumpkin, Eggplant and Chickpea curry from The Women’s Weekly Everyday Vegetarian Cookbook (Page 247).

The Eggplant absorbs the curry flavours beautifully.

  • 2 Tablespoons Vegetable oil
  • I medium onion sliced thinly
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 fresh small red Thai chillies finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground fennel
  • 480 gram thickly sliced eggplant
  • 1 kg butternut pumpkin, cut into 1cm slices
  • 400gm tin diced tomatoes
  • 400ml tin coconut cream
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomatoe paste
  • 400 gm tin chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat, cook onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, stirring for 5 minutes or until onion softens. Add spices and eggplant, cook stirring for 2 minutes.
  2. Add pumpkin, tomatoes, coconut cream, stock and tomatoe paste, bring to the boil. Reduce heat, simmer for 20 minutes. Add chickpeas, simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season to taste.
  3. Service topped with mint.

Another from this book is the Sliced Paneer and Eggplant fritters (Page 331)

  • 1 large eggplant (500gm) cut into 2.5cm pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cups chickpea flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 200 gm paneer cut into 2.5 cm pieces
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 medium lime cut into wedges

Coconut Mint Chutney

  • 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
  • 1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 2 green onions chopped coarsely
  • 1 fresh long green chilli, chopped coarsely
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line a roasting pan with baking paper. Combine eggplant, oil and cumin seeds in pan, season, and roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time or until golden. Reduce oven to 100 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, make coconut mint chutney by processing ingredients until smooth.
  3. Whisk chickpea flour, ground coriander and garam masala in a medium bowl to combine. Whisk in the water until just combined. Season. Stir in eggplant and paneer.
  4. Fill in a large saucepan one third full of
  5. extra oil and heat to 180 degrees. Deep fry individual pieces of eggplant and paneer in batches, allowing excess batter to drain off before adding to the oil for 3 minutes, turning halfway through cooking or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel and season with salt.
  6. Serve fritters with chutney and lime.

Morrocan zaalouk is another great eggplant recipe, it’s a cooked salad made with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and spices and is served as a side dish or a dip alongside crusty bread. This recipe comes from Feast Bazaar – tv show on SBS (Page 104)

  • 1 kg eggplant
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 500 gm tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch of chilli powder to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 handful coriander leaves, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 20 black olives
  1. Preheat oven to 240 degrees
  2. Bake each eggplant, pricked, and wrapped in foil in the oven for 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Peel each eggplant and discard the ski, place the flesh in a strainer and gently press out the juice, finely chop remaining pulp.
  4. Heat oil in fry pan over medium heat and cook the tomatoes and garlic with 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  5. Mix the tomato and eggplant together in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, spices and herbs and stir thru. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve in a large dish garnished with olives.

Finally, Buz Vangun from the cookbook “Mastering the Art of Indian cooking” is a lovely dip option.

  • I large eggplant
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • ¼ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 green chilli’s chopped finely
  • Pinch of asafoetida (Onion and garlic powder equally combined is a good substitute).
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  1. Wash the eggplant and rub with il, make slits and roast over medium gas flame (similar to when making Baba ghanoush).
  2. Put the charred eggplant in a bowl of cold water to cool to room temperature, peel and mash the eggplant in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk the yoghurt until smooth.
  4. Add the yoghurt, chilli powder, cumin, chilli, asafoetida and salt and stir well
  5. Place in fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

Simply, I just can’t have a roasted vegetable sandwich or vegetarian pizza without heaps of Eggplant on it – so delicious!