Kinds of eggplants. Eggplants come in several sizes, shapes and colors. They range from nearly spherical through an elongated tear drop shape to long and nearly cylindrical. Colors range from a shiny black through purple, lavender and pink to nearly white.
There are strong cultural traditions regarding the "right" shape, size and color of eggplant and the way eggplant is prepared, particularly among cultures that originated in warm temperate or tropical regions of Europe and Asia.
At The Tree Farm we raise most of the popular types, shapes and colors of eggplants, including the long slender Asian types, tear-drop shaped eggplants and round eggplants. Our long slender and round eggplants come in both dark purple or pink. We also raise types of striped and green eggplants that can be picked small for those dishes that call for very small eggplants. The first eggplants to ripen are the long, slender Asian types. These are usually ready to pick in late July or early August, depending on the season. The other types are normally ready by mid August. Our fields usually reach maximum production sometime in September.
When is an eggplant ready to pick?. The answer depends on how you plan to use the eggplant. Eggplants are used at all stages of maturity from barely after the flower drops to fully mature and seedy. The kind of eggplant and the stage of maturity depend on the way the user intends to prepare the eggplant. Fortunately, for most uses, we don't need to be particularly fussy. A firm, glossy fruit of reasonable size will do quite well.
Eggplants are easy to pick, although eggplant pickers need to avoid the spines that sometimes form on the calyx (cap). Handle the shiny fruit instead of the stem, and the spines will cause no problem. A sharp knife or pruner is sometimes useful when picking eggplant.
There are many ways to prepare eggplant. Eggplant is widely utilized all of the way from the Mediterranean to Japan. People who grew up cooking in the food traditions of countries touching the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean or the Western Pacific are often excellent sources of recipes for eggplant. At The Tree Farm, we often use eggplant in soups or other one-dish meals. One of our favorite main dishes is stuffed eggplant.
Slice eggplant in half lengthwise. Boil until tender. Remove eggplant halves from the water and cool until they can be handled comfortably.
Scoop out pulpy part containing the seeds and mix with grated mozzarella cheese, grated cheddar cheese and grated parmesan cheese in an approximate ratio of 1:1:1/4.
Fill the eggplant shells with the mixture of eggplant pulp and cheese (heap it all on).
Cook in a little olive oil in a medium hot frying pan until the cheese is all melted.
Alternately, include a tablespoon of olive oil in the pulp mixture and broil until cheese is all melted.