These purple plants gain popularity
Eggplants are hot in the produce world. The bready fruits—whose skins may vary from white to purple-black, though the interiors of all common varieties are uniformly cream-colored—seem to grow in popularity every summer. From 2009 to 2010, eggplant sales by Georgia farmers jumped from $15.5 million to $35 million. Farmers love eggplants because they produce right up until frost—long after the summer tomato rush has dwindled to a few green fryers. Chefs love eggplants because they are abundant and adaptive, not to mention relatively cheap.
A couple of years ago, a lavender-shaded heirloom variety of eggplant called Rosa Bianca was all the rage, but now skinny Asian varieties are in vogue. “They slice quickly, cook quickly, more uniformly, and I think they have a better flavor,” says Paula Guilbeau, a farmer with Heirloom Gardens in Cumming, who grew up on the Louisiana bayou eating eggplant fritters with cane syrup on Sunday nights. Guilbeau likes to split and grill her Purple Fingerling and long, tapered Black Shine eggplants, or dice and saute them to include with cherry tomato bruschetta drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar. Find Heirloom Gardens’ eggplants at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market and the Cumming Harvest, both on Saturdays, and the Dunwoody Green Market on Wednesdays.
Photograph by Caroline C. Kilgore