Japanese eggplant

Sleek, thin-skinned, and mild, Japanese (Ichiban) eggplant is an entirely different animal from its larger, fleshier Italian cousin. Obviously, it’s not an animal, but eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes and potatoes, and therefore classified botanically as a fruit. I put in half a dozen Japanese eggplants early this summer and have been rewarded with a sweet, succulent, almost seedless harvest ever since. Their leaves are a lovely dark green with purple veins, their stems a sticky dark purple, but it’s the periwinkle blossoms that make growing these plants such a delight.  Delicate and festive as cocktail parasols, the newly formed blossoms surround bright yellow stamens, though the flower heads soon start to droop with growth, the petals eventually melting into a thick crown around the top of the fruit.

Japanese eggplants are made for grilling, sliced lengthwise or into the “white moon circles” described with such affection in Peter Balakian’s poem below which, I believe, serves just as well as a recipe.



by Peter Balakian

I loved the white moon circles
and the purple halos,

on a plate as the salt sweat them.

The oil in the pan smoked like bad
days in the Syrian desert—

when a moon stayed all day—

when morning was a purple
elegy for the last friend seen—

when the fog of the riverbank
rose like a holy ghost.

My mother made those white moons sizzle
in some egg wash and salt—

some parsley appeared
from the garden

and summer evenings
came with no memory

but the table with white dishes.

Shining aubergine—black-skinned
beauty, bitter apple.

We used our hands.

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10 Responses to Japanese eggplant

  1. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    This poem is outstanding….simply wonderful ! Thank you

  2. Annette Shear says:

    buon appetito ! lovely poem!
    thank you!

  3. Beata M Newman Scarpulla says:

    The whole thing was lovely, Liza.

    The “fruit”, the flower, the poem.

    What a treat, thank you.


    • Liza says:

      The flowers of so many vegetables are beautiful — snap peas are a favorite, too. I think I’ll have to do a piece on that next summer.

  4. Anders says:

    Makes me wish we were up there and that back porch for a Labor Day celebration — with eggplant!

  5. Umit says:

    Food not just for nourishment of the body but of the soul as well. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone in my reverence of the dinner table. There might be a poem waiting to be written about that fetching cutting board…

  6. Roger Rosenthal says:

    Never a favorite on our table your praise and that beautiful poem have me thinking of picking some up at the farmers market

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