Harvesting Purple: Beans + Eggplant

The kids are back to school and summer's winding down, although you wouldn't know it here. Temperatures have climbed back into the 90s and I've got a garden that just won't quit.

Some veggies, like dark leafy greens, I planted because I love and they're a daily staple of my diet. Others I planted, well, for their color. Yes, long before singing dinosaurs and Steven Spielberg made it popular, I've been a fan of the color purple. I look fabulous in it, and I like to eat it.

Just look at those Royal Burgundy beauties. Gorgeous! I've been enjoying them fresh-picked, as is. Mmm, so good. Much more flavorful than any "green" bean.

So, what gives 'em their vibrant color? Anthocyanins, the same thing you'll find in elderberries, blackberries, blueberries, and grapes. Those are some mighty powerful antioxidants, so eat up and enjoy!

I had some guests over the weekend and wanted to include a side dish for our alfresco dinner on the back deck. Here's what I did:

Garlic Garden Beans

6-8 C filtered water
2 pounds fresh beans, stem snapped off
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp tamari (or Nama Shoyu if you are gluten tolerant)

1. Boil water and allow to cool slightly. Place beans in a deep bowl and pour enough hot water to cover. Allow to sit 2 minutes. Drain and rinse.

2. Return to bowl and toss with prepared mixture of garlic, olive oil and tamari. Plate and serve.

Okay, here's a little science lesson for you: Remember those anthocyanins I mentioned? Well, they change color with acidity levels. Heat dilutes the acidity of the cell sap and causes a decomposition of anthocyanin. Less anthocyanin means less purple.

Now, I didn't boil or steam my beans which would have resulted in them turning from purple to green, but submersing them in the hot water for even two minutes, caused my Royal Burgundy beans to transform into a lovely shade of lavender. Magic!

I have seen women looking at jewelry ads with a misty eye and one hand resting on the heart, 
and I only know what they’re feeling 
because that’s how I read the seed catalogs in January. 
~ Barbara Kingsolver

That's exactly how I felt this winter when I spied these cutie pies: Fairy Tale Eggplant. Oh, even the name had me dreaming of happily-ever-afters.

Aren't they darling? The perfect size for a dwarf or sleeping beauty. But, the best part? The flavor! Tender, sweet, succulent. No bitterness here, I promise.

Normally, I'd suggest "sweating" your eggplant prior to preparing. Eggplant skins can be rather bitter, so you'd cut the eggplant into whatever size/shape your recipe calls for, place it in a colander, salt lightly, and leave for about 30 minutes. Then you'd rinse, pat dry, and begin preparing your recipe. But, really, with these little guys, I have yet to encounter any bitterness.

So, this makes me wonder...folks with arthritis should try and limit their intake of nightshades – eggplant, tomatoes, peppers – because there seems to be a link between joint stiffness and solanine, which is the toxin found in nightshades. I'm wondering if that's what also gives nightshades their slightly bitter taste. Since the Fairy Tale eggplant isn't bitter like traditional eggplant, perhaps it's a variety individuals with arthritis could safely enjoy. Anyone know?

Anyways, I've been slicing mine into thin rounds on a mandoline and marinating it in some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and garlic. Then, I toss with kalmata olives, red onions and fresh basil from the garden. To.die.for.

Okay, tell me, what have you been harvesting recently from your garden (or local farmers market)?

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