EggPlant and Lemon Cake

Since we’re in eggplant overload mode, I’m always looking for new ways to use the crop. I mentioned that we found a great Cuban restaurant where I chose a mixed vegetable dish as a side. It was a mix of zucchini, onion, and eggplant in a tomato sauce. I have no idea what the name of the dish is but it was really tasty so I decided to try to replicate it. I chopped up all the solid ingredients mentioned above plus a green pepper and sauteed it lightly in olive oil with some salt, pepper and garlic. Added the tomato sauce and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Excellent. There is one minor issue in that the zucchini and eggplant don’t overlap in the garden for too long. Right now I have plenty of eggplant but the zucchini gave up the ghost by the end of June. Still, it’s a good way to deal with the egg plant.

One thing about our eggplant is that it’s not that big, familiar purple variety you see in grocery stores. The variety I’m growing is called Lavender Touch and is a gourmet variety that is mostly white with a lavender tinge. You pick them when they’re 4” to 6” long and 3” in diameter. So, for example, the dish described above uses one whole eggplant and it’s perfect for two of us. They don’t contain as much water as the old classics so you don’t have to salt and press them – just peel and cook. Taste wise, they don’t have the bitterness you associate with the big, purple guys. Even so, we’re giving away more than we’re using ourselves. And the blossoms just keep coming.

Learning something about growing grape tomatoes. It’s not my first time around the block so it’s a little surprising to me. Last year I planted a variety called Napa Grape. They were really bushy and became a jumbled, tangled dense mass that made harvesting difficult because so many tomatoes would be growing inside the mess and not visible. It also was so dense it became a favorite place for rabbits to hide in. I decided this time around to correct that problem by staking them from the get go. The surprise is that the plants are now approaching 7′ tall with branches that are already 4-5′ long. The branches look sparse from a leaf perspective but it may be just because I’m stretching them out instead of letting them bundle together like they did last year. If I continue tying them to taller stakes, they will literally be too tall to deal with; if I stretch them out laterally, two plants will consume an entire 20′ row. I’m having a real Jack and the Beanstalk moment. I now understand why last year they became an unmanageable tangle of branches since this year I have a semi manageable tangle of branches which could potentially become an unmanageable tangle if the stakes get overloaded and collapse. In a way I’m creating a sail of tomato branches just waiting for a good strong wind. On my last trip to the library I happened to be reading up on growing tomatoes and one line mentioned cherry/grape tomatoes and said that some varieties, unnamed, can grow to heights of 12′. Note to me, maybe letting the caterpillars keep them trimmed isn’t such a bad idea after all.

I’m not a big dessert guy but Tom offered to bring the dessert after visiting Simon in Gainesville and dropping by here for dinner. He wanted to do it so we figured we would have a piece of cake or something and have him take the rest of it home. As it turns out, he totally screwed me up for life by bringing the most incredible lemon bunt cake ever made. He bought it in a Deli-bakery in Tampa, Wright’s, so it’s not very likely we’ll ever experience it again but any other cake we have will just not meet the standard set by this particular cake. Kind of the way fried Calamari at the Flagler Fish Company totally screwed us up from ordering it anywhere else.

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