We’ve finally reached the end of summer, and it’s time for a new school year to begin. Hopefully, this summer was a great one filled with lots of smiles, laughs, and good times. I love summer and how relaxing it can be, but I am always itching for all things fall right about this time every year. It’s awesome to live in Michigan and to be able to experience all four seasons (even winter)!
The gardens are looking great, and the produce is not slowing down anytime soon. It’s hard to keep up! We just planted some spinach, lettuce, turnips, rutabaga, and carrots that will be ready for the fall. Our sunflowers finally bloomed, and the eggplant looks wonderful. The students will certainly have a lot to look at and cook with when they get back!
Eggplant is such a fun vegetable to grow and to eat. It has been around for more than 2,000 years and is native to India. Eggplant is commonly referred to as “aubergine” in England. There are many varieties of eggplant, but it can be recognized by the glossy, deep purple or black skin and egg-like shape. It can also be green, pink, or white, and can range in size. We have some fairytale and black beauty varieties planted, as you can see above. While technically a fruit, eggplant is often used as a vegetable in most dishes. Eggplant is not only a pretty vegetable, but it is also full of many nutrients, including manganese, folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Eggplant also contains many different antioxidants. Nasunin is one antioxidant, in particular, that helps to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Nasunin also functions as an iron “chelator” to help iron become more absorbable by the body, as well as binding to poisonous metals to promote their removal from the body. Chlorogenic acid is another antioxidant found in eggplant that helps to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism and also has anti-tumor and antiviral effects. Manganese found in eggplant aids in the formation of a healthy bone structure, while also assisting in metabolic activity in the body. It’s no wonder eggplant is referred to as the “king of vegetables” in India!
Eggplant is very versatile in the kitchen. It can be baked, sautéed, steamed, boiled, or grilled. Eggplant absorbs the flavors it is cooked with, so it works well with fresh herbs and spices. Here is a simple recipe for eggplant caponata, which makes a perfect appetizer or side dish!
- 1 pound Italian eggplants cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup green and black olives, chopped
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat with nonstick spray.
- Place eggplant pieces on the baking sheet and drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on the eggplants. Sprinkle some salt and mix using your hands.
- Roast the eggplants in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Sauté onion and garlic until translucent.
- Add in diced tomatoes and red bell peppers to onions and garlic. Cook for about ten more minutes.
- Add in cooked eggplant, chopped olives and capers. Cook for five minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Top with parsley and serve warm with crusty bread, if desired.
Adapted from: Unicorns in the Kitchen Blog (https://www.unicornsinthekitchen.com/eggplant-caponata-recipe/)
I hope you’ve enjoyed diving deeper into the nutrition of many common fruits and vegetables found at the farmer’s market, as well as getting an inside look to our gardens at Creekside school this summer! It has been so fun to share my nutrition knowledge and love of gardening and food with you. This summer has been a really great one! Hopefully, we have inspired you to create your very own backyard garden, if you didn’t already have one. I’ll leave you with this video that details 10 things to know before starting a vegetable garden. Both beginner and experienced gardeners can definitely benefit from these tips!
Have a fantastic school year!