But maybe not as you or I know them. Most of us recognise the aubergine as a plump purple vegetable, but it is actually a fruit like the tomato (and from the same family – solanaceae). During my last visit to the Eden Project I happened to come across a whole bed of distinctive aubergines and tomatoes being grown in the Mediterranean Biome. (There are other vegetables and herbs too, it must be wonderful to have such a BIG greenhouse). I love aubergines and as the OH and I gave up eating red meat this year we have had more than our fair share of them in Melanzane alla Parmigiana or a Ratatouille based sauce for pasta, grilled slices with Halloumi cheese as burgers or in a Moussaka with Quorn mince or you could try Imam bayildi (translated as ‘the imam fainted) which is a classic of Turkish cuisine. I even had them sliced on a pizza along with courgettes, chilli, crème fraîche and mint served in the Terrace restaurant in the Biome itself. And very tasty it was too. But these aubergines are a little more unusual.
- Aubergine ‘Violetta di Firenze’ is a beautiful white and purple heirloom variety from Florence, Italy and has a fine creamy taste. The fruit are produced in abundance.
- Aubergine ‘Amethyst F1’ is a compact variety with silver foliage and an abundance of amethyst-lavender fruits. Spineless and ideal as an attractive container plant.
- Aubergine ‘Turkish Orange’ is a brilliant aubergine ideal for stuffing. They only grow to about 8cm diameter and look gorgeous on the plant. These plants are very compact making them ideal for pots and containers.
- Aubergine ‘Little Fingers’ are delightful slender and petite fruits with a slightly sweet flavour. They can be picked when just 8-15 cm long. Ideal to grow in a sheltered spot in a pot or container.
- Aubergine ‘Ivory’ will provide an abundance of fruit from July to October. With its silvery leaves and purple flowers this is a compact and attractive plant.
- And finally a delightful lavender-pink aubergine flower. Worth growing a plant simply for these little beauties.
I was so taken by the different varieties that I might attempt to grow one or two of these plants in my new Orangery along with tomatoes and chillies next year. Apparently there are several varieties that don’t mind our colder climate. If you want more information visit the RHS for advice. All details about the aubergines featured here are from the signs in the Crop Garden at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
So have you grown any of these unusual varieties and if so how easy was it? And more importantly, how did they taste?
See here for the participant’s guide.