Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Secret Parts of Eggplants

Not to make you blush, but you are looking at the his and hers genitalia of the Rosa Bianca eggplant. They caught my eye (the eggplants, not the genitalia) at the Balakian Farms stand at the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market a few months ago, and I was so pleased with their sweetness and creamy texture that I kept going back. The Rosa Bianca is an apparently fancy pants, highly coveted Italian heirloom variety. I like its plumpness and delicate purple shading. They were more purple in August, but now that we're coming to the end of the season in December, they're looking decidedly wan. Balakian Farms has closed its Ferry Plaza stand until the spring, but you should be able to catch the last Rosa Biancas of the season from another local purveyor of produce.

Look for the glossier ones that are heavy for their size but not too big, since the larger ones have more seeds, which can taste bitter. Certain winds of folk wisdom say that the male eggplants have less seeds and are therefore less embittered than the females. So who's who up there? The male has a round dot and the female has "the wider bottom," as the Balakian lady told me with a knowing smile.

If you're into "science" and stuff like that, then you've probably concluded that eggplants are in fact fruits that have no gender, and that this whole male/female thing is an elaborate ruse cooked up by the farmers to make life seem more fun and exciting than it really is. I'm okay with that. If you want to know more about this purple majesty, NPR has a nice feature on "Making Over the Much-Maligned Eggplant."

I usually dice my eggplants and drench them in oyster sauce for stir-frys, but these are so lovely that you can eat them straight out of the oven. Just slice into thin rounds, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast in the oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes.


Anonymous said...

If I had an eggplant named Rosa Bianca, I would have a hard time not dressing her up in a frock, "wider bottoms" be damned.

eek said...

I don't want to believe that the whole male/female thing is a hoax! But, as the wise Balakian vendress told us, it doesn't really matter with the Rosa Biancas, because they're low on seeds as it is.

In a thrilling coincidence, the SFgate article you linked to (about heirloom veg varieties) was written by Janet Fletcher, who wrote one of my favorite Chronicle food articles of all time about New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in Ashland, Oregon. Check it out