Thursday, December 5, 2013

No Eggplant For You!

Tammy's mother, Sue, is fond of growing nice, big, purple eggplants. These fruits are often the key ingredient for Eggplant Parmesan, one of her favorite dishes. But, as is so often the case, Mom's dish of choice is NOT appreciated by all members of the family.

Black King eggplant
Tammy likes vegetables. Remember, it was Tammy who had to encourage Rob to eat more veg? So, who was sad this year when the eggplant crop was poor? It wasn't Tammy! The mere suggestion that we grow some eggplants was enough to make her question someone's sanity (guess who?). In fact, Rob's winning argument for growing eggplant in the garden several years ago went something like this:
"Hey, we won't have to feel bad about selling all of the eggplant we grow since we won't want to eat them anyway!"
Even more amazing than this is the fact that Rob found out he kind of liked eggplant - much to Tammy's horror!

Listada de Gandia

Rosa Bianca

We tell you all of this as a prelude to this GFF story:
Some years ago in the Zenk garden, Mom and Dad, with their two lovely daughters, worked to plant their vegetable garden for the year. The asparagus was already sending up spears and the mulch had been tilled in. They would plant a little bit of everything, just as they did most years. There would be beans and tomatoes, oregano and garlic, onions and ... eggplant.
When you are kid, there may be no greater injustice than to have to care for a plant that produces something you do NOT want to eat.  It is one thing to have to weed the garden, or pick the beans or dig the potatoes and yet another to have anything to do with one of the banes of your existence.  In Tammy's case, that bane came in the form of the eggplant.
The garden grew. The plants in the garden were, in general, healthy. The crops were being harvested and consumed. The eggplants grew tall, with green, healthy foliage.  In fact, it was noted by the rest of the family that these might have been the biggest, lushest eggplant plants they'd ever had in the garden.  But, for some strange reason that year, the eggplants were not blooming. And, without a bloom, there would be no fruit.
Tammy rejoiced.
What could the problem be? Too much water? Too little water? Was there some sort of disease that needed to be diagnosed? There was discussion about this, of course. And, some amount of disappointment that there would be no eggplant parmesan. But, in the end, the crop failure was attributed to either bad seed or just a strange year.  After all, the rest of the garden did well.  There was no shortage of fresh food for the family.
A year without eggplant parmesan.  Again, Tammy rejoiced.

It wasn't until many years later that the blight that caused the crop failure was discovered. And now that we've had a number of years experience growing crops on the farm, we can attest to a long list of possible causes for production failures.  If someone would have described this situation to me now, I might have been tempted to ask questions about how much fertilizer they had put on their garden.  Often a crop such as eggplant that grows bigger and greener than usual without fruit has too much nitrogen.  But, in the end, all of my answers would have been guesses and they would have been wrong.

In any event, we mentioned that the reason for the crop failure was discovered years later.  Or should we say, the culprit confessed? 

A plant that has its flowers pruned diligently will tend to continue to grow bigger and produce more leaves.  We also know that a child who is aware that
a) flowers on an eggplant plant will turn into fruit
b) eggplant fruit will become eggplant parmesan
c) said child wishes to avoid eating eggplant parmesan

the result will be a motivated child.

We also now know that a kid can be successful in making sure that every flower is picked off of an eggplant plant before they turn to fruit.

But, Tammy forgot something.  Other people grow eggplant.  And Mom can always buy an eggplant from them.  Oops.

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