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From plot to pot: A taste of the Med

PUBLISHED: 11:48 17 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:43 20 February 2013

From plot to pot: A taste of the Med

From plot to pot: A taste of the Med

Vegetable grower Belinda Gray on the late summer delight of aubergines

Vegetable grower Belinda Gray on the late summer delight of aubergines

I feel like an Italian in the market place as I harvest all the ripe, Mediterranean vegetables of August. Tomatoes, aubergines and huge handfuls of leafy, green basil leaves are the perfect combinations for late summer recipes. Sowing these seeds in a bitter cold greenhouse back in February seems a lifetime ago and now the reward is finally here. Huge purple fruits heave on aubergine plants and the very thought of their preparation with olive oil and plump garlic cloves excites the senses.
Growing aubergines outside can be a precarious business. They are sun-worshippers and demand warmth to succeed, two factors that can sometime be in short supply during a UK summer. If we surrender these tender crops to the great outdoors in late spring, it becomes a gamble, but a sunny, sheltered spot in a container (go for a dwarf variety) or grow-bag can prove lucky, although my advice is to safely keep plants protected, under cover. Aubergines like a fertile, well drained soil with young plants set 60cm apart, a good layer of compost in the upper layer and a surface mulch on top once plants establish, as they are very thirsty plants. When growth is in full swing and big purple flowers set their first fruit, start feeding with potash fortnightly and keep up the watering regularly. Support plants as their fruits become heavy, pinching out the growing tips at around 40cm to create bushier growth. Remove excess flowers as they form, enabling energy to channel into 5-6 good quality fruits. Silky, shiny skins indicate ripeness when they are about 15cm long, depending on their variety.
Their bland tendencies are a blank slate to merge with stronger flavours. Salting sliced fruits enables less oil to be absorbed when frying, healthy but time consuming for a quick supper. Olive oil and roasting bring out their taste, so chopped in chunks or halved down the middle in a roasting tray with garlic creates a smoky, slightly crispy result after a slow roast.

Belinda Gray runs a vegetable garden design business and gardening school with courses, near Woodbridge.
Contact her on 01394 384712 or


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