Eggplant has joined the colorful parade of produce available at farmers tailgate markets. You’ll find many varieties of this summer stalwart from now until early fall.
The first eggplants to appear on market tables have been the tiny and whimsically named fairy tale variety. We’ve spotted these at Ten Mile Farm and Olivette Farm (both at ASAP Farmers Market), as well as Full Sun Farm and Gaining Ground Farm (both at River Arts District Farmers Market and North Asheville Tailgate Market). These speckled purple cuties are sweeter and creamier than other types. Because of their small size, they cook quickly and resist the sogginess. They work particularly well in recipes calling for a sauté, but roasting and grilling are also good methods.
Elongated Asian eggplants, in dark purple, lavender, and white, are another tasty option. So far we’ve seen these from Full Sun and Lee’s One Fortune Farm (ASAP Farmers Market, Black Mountain Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Market, River Arts District Farmers Market, and East Asheville Tailgate Market). With thin skin, these are great for grilling or for stir fries. Because these eggplants have fewer seeds than other varieties, they do well in mashed or pureed dips like baba ganoush. Roast them whole on the grill or directly on your oven rack (put a tray on the rack below to catch the drippings) until they’re a bit shriveled and collapsing. Let them cool, then scrape the creamy flesh into a bowl. Mash with roasted garlic, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and salt (or, for a silkier version, use a food processor). Stir in chopped mint and parsley.
Teardrop-shaped Italian or globe eggplants in purple-black are perhaps the most iconic. These meaty types stand up well to hearty preparations like stuffing or parmesan. Full Sun has Italian eggplants now, but expect them to be widely available in the next few weeks. Early in the season, these will be nearly as tender as the slender fairy tale and Asian varieties. For particularly large specimens, consider peeling before cooking, as the skins can be a little tough. As the season progresses or if an eggplant is on the older side, soak it in buttermilk to tenderize and remove bitterness.
Finally, though we haven’t come across any yet this season, be on the lookout for Thai eggplants. This green, golf ball–shaped variety has shown up at area markets in years past and are ideal for adding whole to Thai curries.
Farmers markets are abundant right now with tomatoes, summer squash, beans, corn, potatoes, okra, peppers, carrots, beets, greens of all sorts, peaches, plums, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and much more. You’ll also find a variety of meats, eggs, bread, cheese, fermented products, baked goods, and beverages. Find details about the farms and farmers markets throughout the region in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.