Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Discover Exotic & Delicious Eggplants at Local Greenmarkets

This is the time of year food lovers wait all year long for.

It’s the sweet spot of farm to table, pasture to plate, fin to fork, and, oh, whatever the myriad, au courant other ways to say “real food.”

The farmers and food artisans earned their due last week, celebrating their moment in the sun with National Farmers Week.  (Do we really need “just” a week or shouldn’t every week be Farmer’s Week?)

Like Daisy in the “Great Gatsby” who cries over the sheer beauty of the shirts, Greenmarket fans could well up at the imposing beauty of the season’s best.
There are boatloads of garden fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs spilling, tottering, towering.
Perched as pretty as jewels in a Tiffany window display, the seasonal temptresses affix their gaze from baskets, tabletops, and carts, winking at market shoppers.

According to the Farmer’s Market Coalition, “Since 2000, the number of farmers markets has grown 150%, from 2,863 markets to 7,175 in 2011.  These numbers continue to rise as farmers markets become fresh food mainstays for shoppers across all socio-economic, political, and ethnic ranges. Farmers markets bolster local economies, improve community health, and bring diverse groups of people together through a shared social space.” 
The number of jobs Greenmarkets provide were acknowledged recently by Rodale Press:  “Along with the USDA's new statistics, the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report finding that farmer's markets could be a much-needed antidote to high unemployment. Their economic analysis found that even modest public support for up to 500 farmer's markets annually would create up to 13,500 jobs in a five-year window, bolstering local and regional food systems. "On the whole, farmers markets have seen exceptional growth.”

Naturally, New York City has been a leader in the Greenmarket or Farmer’s Market initiative. In 1976, the Council on the Environment of New York City, and now is GrowNYC who established the Greenmarket program, which provides regional small farmers with opportunities to sell their fruits, vegetables and other products at open-air markets in the city.

The best known of these in New York City is the Union Square Greenmarket.

Many of the chefs in this reporter’s soon to be released book, “Long Island Homegrown Cookbook,” followed by the “NYC Homegrown Cookbook” helped contribute to the establishment of the NYC Greenmarkets. (
As did, of course, the father of today’s NYC Parks Department Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, Barry.  
It’s a fascinating story of fortitude, community, and love of food.

Union Square market is held Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays between 8 AM and 6 PM year round. GrowyNYC claims there are approximately 250,000 customers a week who purchase 1,000 varieties of fruits and vegetables at the market from the more than 140 regional farmers and artisanal food makers.

That is the stage set. Back to the seduction.

One cannot stop indulging in these adorable, curious, other-worldly, be-still-my-heart, tasty, vegetables and fruits.
No longer is it enough to secure or grow fresh produce.

Like shopping Bergdorf’s or Saks, where one knows, yes, there are dresses and shoes and coats.  But in those palaces of fashion, exist the likes of which one has not seen and must have.
So too, the Greenmarkets offer pulsating, ever-curious designs on the season. 

To whit.  Who could deny the cute as a puppy Fairy Tale eggplant? 
Or the Orange Turkish Eggplant? And how about those Sweet Kermit Eggplants?  They even boast a nickname: The Garden Egg. 

This is the new foodie frontier!
To discover not just fresh food – but curious, wonderful, sexy, veggies and herbs.
The kaleidoscope of colors is spellbinding. Worthy of a Mondrian painting.

Here’s a sampling at this week’s Greenmarket:
Rosa Bianca Eggplant
* Rosa Bianca Heirloom Eggplant is heralded as “one of the best tasting variety recommended by many chefs as creamy and mild flavor. Grill or roasting is recommended.” Or pan-cooked with olive oil and salt.  “Also makes great eggplant parmesan.” 

* The beautiful India Paint Eggplant has tender white flesh that is delicious grilled, baked, or pan-cooked with oil and salt.  
India Paint Eggplant

* The velvety royal purple baby sized Japanese eggplant is very sweet, creamy, and noted as the most popular.  There are no seeds, so the pint sized prizes can be sliced up and grilled or in a pan with a dash of olive oil and salt. 

*Kermit “… have a delicious meaty flesh and flavor with hints of mushroom and artichoke.  Firm flesh holds up well in curries and can be eaten raw or cooked.” Kermit is a multi-talent cosmopolitan!

    * Fairy Tale dwarfs have a sweet, succulent taste, no bitterness.  They are terrific pan-cooked or caramelized with a little olive oil and vinegar. 

      *  Orange Turkish Eggplant is the runway model of the new crop of eggplant beauties with its showy red and orange color statement.  Trouble is whether to cuddle them or cook them!  Nevia No, the vegetable farming artist and favorite of NYC’s master chefs at Bodhitree Farms ( at the Greenmarket, recommends slicing very thin and frying them – like potato chips!   This is an eggplant with a sense of humor and style.

      Inspired, this reporter bought more than enough of the cutey-pie eggplants for dinner -- like an expectant date hoping for that magic at Victoria’s Secret…
      Along with their equally exotic farm stand knock outs: the seasonal tomato: zebra, heirlooms, red and yellow. 

      Enamored of the jewel box eggplant and tomato collectibles, next step was to procure appropriate recipes to exploit their petite charms. 
      Voila!  Melissa Clarke’s Wednesday feature in the New York Times Dining section had a full page on eggplant recipes. (
      After Tweeting Melissa to ask if the Fairy Tales and Turkish eggplants could be substituted for the traditional purple globe eggplant and she confirmed “You can.  They should be great!”  Dinner was a go.  She’s a doll. (

      Enjoy a great summer of eggplant, food fantasy discovery!

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