For months and months and months the bush would produce lovely purple flowers which would then go brown and drop off the plant. I continued to water and fertilize, my eggplant dream still firmly in place. But after about nine months, yes NINE months, I was ready to give up on the eggplant. Enough was enough - how much time does one plant need in order to get its fruit going? I could have grown a baby in the same amount of time it'd taken the eggplant to do...nothing!
When I say was I going to rip up the place I seriously mean I was out there with my gloves on ready to evict this lazy resident of my garden. As I leaned down to pull up the first plant I noticed a bulge on one of stems. OH MY GOD! Could this be IT? I screamed for The Boy to come and look - we had an eggplant about to pop! And then I spotted a second bulge! I really need to apologize to my neighbours for all the screaming I do on my balcony. Sorry guys!
Within about a week I had four eggplants on the hop on the balcony. After their initial nine month hesitation (or gestation more like it) it only took about 4 weeks for them to grow large enough to consider picking. I had no idea how to tell when an eggplant was ready to harvest so I just crossed my fingers and cut one off the plant (and broke my scissors doing so - these babies are TOUGH).
I always cut everything I've grown in half to check for rot...and for creepy crawlies who may have set up home inside. This may seem a tad OCD but we've had a few near misses with caterpillars still attached to leaves and wot not. Thankfully this eggplant looked like an eggplant on the inside and there were no house guests either.
This eggplant had timed things nicely - arriving in the kitchen for the very first day of Meat Free Week. I already knew what I was going to make with it - a slow cooked Morocan eggplant stew that I'd made once before from Voracious Vander's blog. I added a half a cup of dried chickpeas to the mix and also doubled the amount of tinned tomatoes in order to give the chickpeas enough moister to absorb.
It's really a VERY simple dish to make as most things cooked in the slow cooker are. That said washing the slow cooker afterwards is not so simple with everything baked on to the sides - lucky for me The Boy washes and I cook.
We ate the stew with cous cous that had been soaked in vegan 'chicken-style' stock. We always use this brand in our house as I'm VERY dubious about any store bought stock being made from free-range sources (other than The Stock Merchant that is - but that's hard to come across in our neck of the woods and it's a premium product).
And what better opportunity to use some of our HUGE parsley plant. This thing has an epic afro situation happening, so much so that the birds like to sit in it like it's a beanbag (hence the fake bird which is meant to deter them but doesn't).
And there you have it - only nine months to grow, six hours to cook and 10 minutes to eat. Delish and well worth the wait.
You can view more Harvest Monday posts on Daphne's Dandelions blog.