Week 17 – scrumptious summer solanums

IMG_2975.JPGYes the solanums are in full force: the peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes are all members of the solanum plant family.  These heat-loving crops are now producing well in the field in addition to the hoophouse, thus you are starting to see some new varieties, like the asian eggplant (“ping tung long”) and the “jimmy nardello” skinny, long, sweet italian frying peppers.  This will probably be the last week for zucchini and summer squash.  The powdery mildew has had its way a little early with those plants this year.  Also in this share are the red torpedo onions (without tops this time), a bunch of beets (gold or red), cucumbers, and a bag of mesclun/braising mix.  This mix has “golden frills” mustard, “purple rapa pop” mustard, “mizspoona” (cross between mizuna and tatsoi), and arugula.  It’s a little bit spicy but too spicy for a nice lettuce-less salad.  But you could also use them as very tender cooking greens.  Filling out the share on the herb side is a bunch of parsley.

Most of the makings of pico de gallo fresh salsa are here:  chop up very fine tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, parsley (instead of cilantro), and some hot pepper if you like.  You can add cucumber to the mix too if you want to.  Mix all together with a bit of apple cider vinegar, salt, lime/lemon juice, and black pepper.  I just do it all to taste but I’m sure there are good recipes lurking out there.

Speaking of recipes, another good solanum-heavy dish is ratatouille.  Here’s Alice Water’s ratatouille recipe from food52.com:


Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 medium or 2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine + 6 basil leaves, chopped
  • pinch of dried chile flakes
  • 2 sweet peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • Salt to taste
  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove the eggplant when done and set aside.
  3. In the same pot, pour in 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, basil bouquet, dried chile flakes, and a bit more salt.
  4. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in summer squash. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes longer, then stir in eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all its flavors, and adjust the seasoning with salt.
  6. Stir in the chopped basil leaves and more extra virgin olive oil, to taste. Serve warm or cold.