These are the first of my test varieties that I’ve begun to harvest: ‘Indigo Rose’ tomato (left) and ‘Clara’ eggplant (below). Both photograph well—but beauty is only skin deep. ‘Indigo Rose’ is a tasty tomato but ordinary. Its real asset is its color; I think this is a splendid-looking dish of tomatoes. It reminds of the gaudy and outrageous jewelry I love to wear. These make a statement.
‘Clara’ eggplant is a real beauty, too—perfect shape, perfectly white. I think it must be sinful to cut it up and eat it. I will probably burn in hell. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada
Spring weather here in southern Ontario has been very odd. We had a week of mild (read HOT) weather in March, followed by a deep freeze in April. It managed to wipe out most of the cherry crop in Niagara, as well as wreak havoc on the tender fruit, pears, and apples. So it will be a tough year for a whole lot of growers here.
My test garden crops have been in the ground for about 3 weeks now, through a very dry spring. And again, unseasonably warm. I think the plants just don’t know what to do. Most things in the test garden look good, although something lopped the tops off the ‘Cayenetta’ peppers. The eggplants are poor because of the darned flea beetles, which are terrible this year. Our (non-) winter was so mild that there was very little kill-off of overwintering pests. So I’m on guard!
I had the best year ever for my heirloom tomato transplant sales, so in that way the spring has been kind to me. I grew over 600 different varieties this year, and there are some that I have just discovered myself this year that I am trialling. The heirloom tomato world is pretty exciting! —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario
I just came in from checking my garden. Here’s my report, five weeks post-transplant. Overall, things are thriving! I’m amazed at how quickly everything is growing and starting to produce. I picked a ‘Salt and Pepper’ cuke that was delicious—crisp and sweet. There was one that was overripe so I probably could have picked it four or five days ago had I noticed it hiding among the foliage. That would be a month from transplant to harvest!
Tomatoes are growing like gangbusters and all are flowering. Some have tiny fruits. The peppers are just starting to open their buds; eggplants are just forming buds. The eggplant plants are humongous!
I have a couple of lime basil plants. I tasted one today, and I have to say that I don’t “get it.” Why would anyone grow lime basil when they can grow the amazingly pungent and mouth-watering Italian-type basils? I’m not sure what I’m missing, but the lime basil is just boring to me. Can anyone enlighten me? —Nan Sterman, Encinitas, California
Facebook is a great place for friends to share recipes and gardening advice, and it’s there that my Dallas friend Kirk Kirksey proves himself a font of wisdom—and fun. His most recent post, a recipe for baba ganoush, made me laugh out loud (and hungry). With eggplants so plentiful now, I thought I’d share:
Baba Ganoush, Y’all
3 large eggplants (about 2½ pounds)
1 (7-ounce) can green chiles
¼ cup tahini paste
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
On the grill, build a small fire with mesquite wood chunks only (or use charcoal if you’re not a purist). Let the flames die down until the wood chunks are very hot, but not flaming. Cut eggplants in half length-wise (is that a word?). Rub each eggplant half with olive oil, and place, skin side up, on the grate. Cover with the grill lid (or foil, I guess) and allow to smoke. Remove eggplants halves when the skin has started to collapse and the meat is mushy—about 30 minutes. Allow to thoroughly cool.
There will be a thin charred layer covering the roasted eggplant pulp. Carefully remove this and discard. Scrape the eggplant pulp into a bowl and discard the empty skins.
Place all ingredients in a food processor or, if you’re a peasant like me, in a blender. Hit the ‘Chop’ button if you like texture; ‘Puree’ if you prefer a smooth, featureless paste. Salt to taste.
Serve with pita chips as a dip. Or, if you can’t stand it, just have a bowl for breakfast like I’m doing now.
For all you need to know on planting, growing and harvesting eggplants, click here.
My garden got planted a little later in the year than usual—early May rather than mid-April. Honestly, I think I may do that again. The plants just took off! It’s been amazing, really. The curcurbits are flowering and producing, the tomatoes are growing bushier every day and starting to flower, the flowers are budding, the peppers are growing tall, and the basil is close to being ready to sample, but not quite yet.
This week, I cut the first ‘Lime Crisp’ cukes, which are delicious! Slender, crisp, slightly sweet. A real winner. I hope it produces well.
I picked the first ‘Little Potato’ cukes tonight and I gotta say, this thing is so ugly that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to plant it other than for its odd appearance. The fruits were not quite ripe—the skin still a bit thick and the flavor not quite developed. I’ll let the next set get larger before picking.
Does anyone still have ‘Delfino’ cilantro coming up in their garden? I have a patch that has reseeded for years now. We still like the feathery texture and slightly mild flavor.
I miss eggplant this year—there are no eggplants among the vegetables we’re trialing—so I think I’ll start some from the past. I still have seed for ‘Opal’ and ‘Twinkle’, two winners in my garden from 2006. I’m teaching a class this coming week on starting plants from seeds so I’ll start those and use them as demonstration.