Monday, 11 August 2014
So there it is; the first eggplant of the season, our just-about 1 pound Kamo eggplant. I feel a little badly, sometimes, that so many of the vegetable varieties that I grow in my garden and write about are pretty much completely unavailable, unless you grow them yourself. I'm afraid this is one of them.
Kamo is a kyo yasai, or traditional vegetable variety from Kyoto. It is named for an old village which is now part of the city, where these eggplants were grown for hundreds of years. As the old capital of Japan, Kyoto accumulated the best produce the country had to offer, and from them developed the varieties of vegetables that are now so highly regarded. The fact that it had a large Buddhist population, and less access to fresh seafood than most Japanese cities also contributed to the development of a large number of traditional Kyoto vegetable varieties.
This eggplant caught us by surprise. We did not even know it was coming along. We have been keeping our eggplants and peppers under hoop-houses quite a bit this summer, as it has been quite cool here, rarely making it past 25°C and getting down well under 20°C at night - often ridiculously close to 10°C. When we decided to have a look and discovered this one, I was amazed. They are usually not even this big, never mind so early in the season. The actor depicted on that wrapping cloth, by the way, is pretty much life-sized, to give you an idea of the scale.
Kamo is a solid, rather smooth fleshed eggplant. The flavour is very fine, but mild. It is supposed to absorb less oil than other, coarser fleshed eggplants, but I'm not so sure about that. Maybe it's true. I will have to cook another, and another, to be sure. At any rate, this eggplant is very suitable for making tempura.
Kamo is usually described as round, but it isn't, quite. I think of it as purse-shaped; it has a flattish bottom it will sit on, usually, and sometimes the top of the fruit is almost pleated into the calyx. The calyx tends to be quite thorny, so be careful when handling one. The colour of the skin is lovely; a rich purple when ripe, and shows almost a wood-grain quality to it before it is ripe.
Like all eggplants, it should be started indoors 8 weeks before last frost date, and kept as warm as reasonably possible all through its useful life. A hoop-house is definitely a good idea. Given good conditions, you should have eggplant about 2 months (65 days) after planting them out. I think our first eggplant hit that date almost exactly. Kamo will grow to about 2' tall, and should bear 3 or 4 eggplants around here.