Saturday, 12 September 2009
Listada de Gandia Eggplant
Is this a beautiful eggplant, or what? Eggplants in general are very attractive fruits, but I think Listada de Gandia takes the prize as the most gorgeous. In fact, there are said to be 3, 5 or 10 slightly varying strains of it (depending on the source) in degrees of cream and mauvey-purple stripes. This white-grounded strain seems to be the most common and best suited for growing around here.
It is generally described as an Italian heirloom variety dating from the mid 19th century, which it plainly is not. Occasionally it is decribed as being from France, which is much closer. A very little investigation shows that it is in fact ultimately Spanish. Gandia is a town on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, about halfway between Valencia and Alicante. Spain is also the traditional source of nearly half of 20 varieties of striped eggplant. The confusion likely arises since "listada" is a word shared between Portuguese, Spanish and Italian; it means striped. The "de" rather than "di" is also a hint that it is Spanish, not Italian. On the other hand, the seeds in circulation in North America may be different enough from the "berenjenas listada de Gandia" actually grown in Gandia, as to constitute a rather different plant. Mind you, the Gandians are looking for a designated appellation for their eggplants, so you should perhaps take that with a grain of political salt. William Woys Weaver, in his wonderful book "Heirloom Vegetable Gardening" describes it as "introduced into southern France in the early 1850's as the Striped Guadaloupe". It is quite possible, I suppose, that it had crept up the coast from Spain and into France by that time. Or it may be that the Gandians are quite correct and this is a different eggplant than the one they grow, in spite of the name. Weaver describes it as an old cross between a purple and a white variety. I confess it all seems quite unclear to me.
The plant is rather short and squat, growing 18" to 2' tall, and about the same width. The eggplants are about 6" to 8" long, and once fertilized, the transition from flower to ripe fruit is remarkably quick; a matter of 3 weeks or so in good conditions. These are apparently also one of the easiest eggplants from which to save seed. In spite of this, Ontario growers need to be a bit careful with Listada de Gandia; the plants are thought to be day-length sensitive, and they do best in good hot weather. In other words, the timing for planting these out is important. You can expect 2 to 4 eggplants per plant, depending on conditions. Row covers are probably useful. Eggplants don't have too many pests around here; the worst are flea-beetles and the Colorado Potato beetle, which should be called the eggplant beetle as it will never touch a potato if it can get its hot little mandibles on an eggplant. These can both ravage young plants, but will do mostly cosmetic damage on older, established plants. They are subject to the same diseases as tomatoes and potatoes, and should not be grown on ground where they have grown in the last few years. Even more than tomatoes, they will be gone with the first breath of frost.