Gardening Challenged

I moved to Florida 2 years ago and into an apartment, sight unseen. I have always loved growing things. When Kevin and I had a house, we planted all types of herbs, grew grapes and pomegranates, attempted blueberries but the soil wasn’t acidic enough , and grew all types of vegetables.

Since I have been single, I have always chosen apartments with great patios for growing “things”. They had told me my patio here would have a lot of light. What they failed to mention was that it was indirect and the screens make it even harder for plants to get light.

So for the last two years I have supported Home Depot and Lowe's, replacing plants that got too lanky and died. I am a never give up kind of “farm girl” though. I planted tomatoes at my mother’s house. The first season, my mother called me to say “we have a baby”. It was one tiny, lonely cherry tomato. Ok, not a meal but I was newly inspired.

This spring I planted tomatoes and basil. Lo and behold, this summer we had “children”. We ate small cherry tomatoes and basil. The plants didn’t make it too long though since I wasn’t there to water them.

I had another idea. I decided to start growing things outside of my patio but close to the screen. I hoped they wouldn’t be stolen, but felt it was worth a try.
Wow, what a great idea! I started with a Thai basil plant. It is still nice and healthy and growing. Next in a big pot, I planted an eggplant. It was time I really tried my hand at being a Florida vegetable farmer .

I never liked eggplant too much in the past until I grew some at home. What I realized is that the eggplant you get at the store is bitter because it is old. Fresh eggplant is wonderful! I was looking forward to my success.

All was going well. The first flowers appeared and next thing you know…there was a little “WHITE” eggplant growing. White? I had no idea it was going to be white. How did I manage to buy a white eggplant bush?

Still, it was growing and I was happily looking up recipes for white eggplant, optimist that I was since it was only the size of a golf ball. Then another eggplant started growing. I was really excited. Two eggplants on my little bush. A bumper crop. Oh, and I forgot to mention my watering technique. It was pretty ingenious. Since the plant was so close to my patio screen. I filled a glass of water and threw it against the screen. Enough times and the eggplant was no longer thirsty!

About the time my trusty white eggplant were the size of a softball, they stopped growing and the leaves on the plant started to die. I was crushed. How could this have happened?

At this point, two very important questions came to mind. Should I have bought stock in Home Depot and more important could I eat them at that size? Not sure about buying the stock but,darn sure I was going to try eating them.

I picked those little white softballs, cut them up, dipped them in some egg and Italian bread crumbs and cooked them in olive oil. I was thrilled until I tasted them. BITTER is all I can say and that is putting it nicely. They ended up in the trash and I was one disappointed farm girl..or was I now a city girl?

Later in thinking back, I remember one of the workers coming around spraying for weeds. I think the overspray killed my beautiful eggplant. Surely it had nothing to do with my ability to grow eggplant in a pot in front of a screened in patio in Wellington Florida. I will try again next year. Hopefully I will be living in a place more conducive to gardening.

I had eggplant on the mind, having gotten no satisfaction from the little white globes so I went to a farm store and bought a nice little eggplant to put in a vegetable sandwich. I also bought some fresh baked Kalamata olive bread, a beautiful ripe Florida tomato and a red bell pepper.

Not wanting to fry the eggplant, I sliced it fairly thin, salted it to take out any bitterness http://www.ehow.com/how_5801351_salt-press-eggplant.html
then spread a thin layer of light mayonnaise on the slices. I coated them with Italian breadcrumbs mixed with some freshly grated parmesan and some garlic powder them baked them on an oiled cookie sheet at 350 degrees until they were cooked. It took about 25 minutes total in a toaster oven, turning halfway.Thicker slices can take a lot longer especially if you use a traditional oven. Alongside the eggplant , I roasted some of the red pepper, then removed it, took the skin off and cut it in strips.

I toasted the olive bread and spread it with a little more of the mayo. I put the sandwich together by using sliced tomato, the eggplant, roasted red pepper slices and some basil leaves. I topped it all with a sprinkling of salt, pepper and freshly grated Parmesan. A juicy peach made a wonderful ending to my lunch.

I really enjoyed my farm fresh meal. I hope you will take the time to enjoy the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available right now. They taste great and just as your mother always told you, “ Eat, eat, vegetables are good for you”!