We’re launching a fun new campaign here at RCFM, pitting eggplant against artichoke. Team Eggplant looks to well known City of New Westminster Horticulture Manager, Claude Ledoux, for guidance. Claude shares with us his thoughts on his eggplant love. Please leave your support in the comments and let us know why you’re joining Claude on Team Eggplant or why you think Team Eggplant members are misguided. Why do you love eggplant? What makes it superior to artichoke? What is your favourite thing to do with eggplant?
Every year the spring tells the same sad story. My neighbours are planning their vegetable gardens. Next door the windowsills are lined with seedlings of celariac, yu tsai sum, and radicchio. Across the street they are experimenting with kohlrabi, mizuna, and cardoon. I mention eggplants, but my neighbours are not listening. I’ve pleaded, I’ve begged, I’ve wept….. but all in vain. Not one of them has ever grown an eggplant, despite living right next to my all-eggplant garden.
At work it’s more heartbreak for me. When I meet with my crack team of city gardeners, all they can talk about are agastache, asclepias, schizanthus, and cheiranthus. I’ve left my WestCoast seed catalogue open at my favourite section…. page 27, the eggplant page. How can they resist the darkly plump ‘Black Beauty,” the long and shapely ‘Ichiban,’ the streakishly charming ‘Twinkle,’ or the petite and sweet ‘Fairytale’? But somehow, “eggplant” never ends up on their order sheets.
At the city greenhouse, it’s no different. Hanging baskets drip with lophospermum, chrysocephalum, and zauschneria. When I ask the basket designer why no eggplants are included, she just laughs heartlessly. Sometimes, late at night, I sneak into the greenhouse and change the production lists, crossing out “eschscholzia” and subsituting “eggplant.” My alert greenhouse team always spots the change and deletes my so-called “error.” They always have the same excuse – they thought it was a spelling mistake.
Can anyone question the culinary versatility of the eggplant? Or the beauty of them, with their glossy tight skin in colours ranging from creamy white, through pink and mauve, to blackest purple? Sometimes I like to simply cup one in my hands, gazing in wonder at its glistening perfection, and licking my lips as I imagine myself frying it up for dinner. I always keep a basket of eggplants on my office desk to offer to visitors, and I often bring an eggplant bouquet for my hostess when I’m invited for supper. It’s easy to spot me as I go about my work as the city’s horticulture manager – I always slip an eggplant into my buttonhole as I head out the door in the morning. It’s not only beautiful, but it makes a tasty snack when a meeting runs long or I’ve forgotten to pack a lunch. You’ll often see me dashing into city hall or striding into the city works yard in my steel-toed boots, a cell phone in one hand and an eggplant in the other. I’d blush if you knew how often I’ve “answered” my eggplant!
My latest weapon in the eggplant crusade is not a pruning knife or sharpened secataurs. It’s a name change. While idly paging through a British cookbook just the other day, I came upon an intriguing word – “aubergine.” Aubergine, as in “aubergine moussaka” or “aubergine slices in pomegranate juice and pine nuts.” Yes, I am going to adopt this exotic European-sounding name for eggplant. Maybe then someone will listen to me!