Late August in the kitchen garden and we can feel autumn taking hold, anticipating a season of squash, sweetcorn and kales. Right now however, the flavours of summer are still in evidence and our aubergines are at their absolute best. This Mediterranean vegetable, with its glossy deep purple skin and fragrant creamy flesh, is perfect for curries, Middle Eastern dishes; smoked, grilled or on the barbeque. Aubergines can divide an audience perhaps due to a mistaken belief that they need huge amounts of salt and oil for cooking. Modern varieties do not require salting and they are at their best prepared simply. A brush of oil before grilling (either whole or sliced) and let them char, it will bring out the best of their unique creamy texture, and ensure that none of their nutritional value is lost.
Thyme’s chefs are coming back from the kitchen gardens every day with baskets full, all shapes and sizes, many of which would be perfect candidates for an ugly veg competition. But oh the taste, the nurturing required is very much worth it.
Planting seeds under cover in February, we chose the varietals Farmers Long, Pinstripe, Black Beauty and Turkish Orange to give a range of colour and texture. There is lively debate about the feasibility of growing aubergines outside in the British climate, but we would advise that for the best success grow undercover, in your greenhouse or conservatory. They need warmth and they need sun. That said, if you have a warm corner in your garden where you grow tomatoes, why not try aubergines.
Start in a propagator or in a really warm spot and increase the size of pot as the leaves develop. Feed with a general fertiliser, but when the fruits form switch to one that is high in potassium. Thin out the leaves, ventilation is key to preventing the flowers dropping. Harvest when the aubergines are plump and sleek late in the summer.
Our gardener's recipe this month is a quick grilled aubergine dish, deliciously easy after a day in the garden ... Aubergine, Dill, Saffron & Cobnuts