Laughing Loon Farm - Northfield, MN
Harvesting: Late August to mid October
Eggplants are botanically classified as a berry.
Eggplants are a species of nightshades - other nightshade crops include tomatoes and potatoes - that were originally domesticated in India. The plants have large, coarsely lobbed leaves with spiny stems. Their flowers are shades of white or purple. Eggplants are bulbous fruits and can be a range of shapes from oval, and egg-shapped to long and slender with shiny skin. The inside flesh is a milky color, with a meaty texture. Cultivated varieties of eggplant can be as small as 2 inch fairytale varieties up to 12 feet or longer.
Eggplant varieties vary in size (as small as your thumb to as large as your forearm), shape (oblong, round, slender), and coloring (white, bicolor, deep purple). Here are a couple types that farmer Danya at Laughing Loon Farm is harvesting this season:
Orient Express (Asian variety)
Skinny, delicate and a deep, shiny purple, Orient Express eggplants are an early variety, harvested up to 2 weeks before other plants. It has a tender flavor and cooks quickly. They have a high skin to flesh ratio which means they won’t fall apart as quickly when cut, making them ideal for stir fries, tempura or pickling.
Epic (Globe variety)
Globe eggplants, (also called American) are what typically comes to mind when you think eggplant. They are large, dark purple/black and have a wide, pear shape. Laughing Loon planted a Globe variety called Epic this season, which is thriving in the late summer heat. This variety tends to have tougher skin and more seeds than the thinner varieties making them a little more bitter. Globe eggplants are larger than Asian varieties with a meatier, spongy texture inside, which makes them good for grilling or roasting.
Because of their spongy flesh, eggplants can absorb oil more quickly than other vegetables while cooking. The folks over at Food52 recommend salting your eggplant before cooking to draw out the moisture, which also lessens their bitter flavor. You can find more helpful tips from the Food52 Hotline here. Let the roasting, grilling, sautéing and pureeing commence.
South Indian Pickled Eggplant (Green Kitchen Stories)
Stuffed Eggplant (La Tartine Gourmande)
Baba Ganoush (David Lebovitz)
Eggplant Chutney (What Katie Ate)
Sweet and Sour Stir-Fried Eggplant (Serious Eats)