This is the latest in a series of posts that I’ve done about my favorite varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs we grow at Happy Acres. To see my other Spotlights, and those from other garden bloggers, visit the Variety Spotlights page.
Today’s spotlight is on a variety I wasn’t that impressed with the first time I saw it in a seed catalog. “Just another novelty vegetable,” I thought. Cute perhaps, but not very useful in the kitchen. Then in 2009 our local Master Gardener group grew it in their AAS Demo Garden. It produced lots of neon purple fruits with white stripes, and volunteers were encouraged to take some of the bountiful crop home and use them. I was happy to oblige, and quickly found out how good they were for grilling. After that first taste, and seeing how well they did in the Demo Garden, I planted them here in 2010 and I’ve been growing them ever since!
Fairy Tale is a 2005 AAS winner, and the first eggplant to win an AAS award since 1939. The compact, well-branched plants are perfect for container plantings, but they also perform quite well when planted in-ground. I’ve grown them both ways, and they have never failed to produce well for me. The plant in the below photo is one I grew in 2011, and it’s about two feet tall at that point. They can get a tad bigger than that, especially when they are planted in the ground.
This year they are giving us our first taste of homegrown eggplant. The plants are about 16-18 inches tall now and covered in blooms and fruit. Fairy Tale is quick to produce, with most seed catalogs listing it as taking 50 days to maturity. It was even quicker to produce here this year, giving us the first harvest only 40 days after setting out the plants. The fruits are produced in clusters of two to five, and are best picked when no more than about four inches long. Eggplant needs heat to do well, and containers warm up faster in spring than garden soil does. That can give folks in cooler climates a jump on the growing season, and it’s a great way to help give eggplants the conditions they prefer. You can read more about it in my tutorial on Growing Eggplant in Containers.
As with other eggplant varieties, flea beetles can be a problem, and so can the Colorado Potato Beetle. I’ve had good luck controlling pests with a weekly spray of neem oil and liquid pyrethin. You can also cover the plants with row cover material, and for flea beetles use yellow sticky traps or plant a trap crop like radishes nearby. In my experience, early control is key, especially during the first month after planting when the tender young plants are most susceptible to damage.
In the kitchen, Fairy Tale has mild tasting white flesh that is sweet, not bitter, and it has very few seeds. The thin skin is quite tender and doesn’t need to be peeled. I already mentioned that I love to grill it, but it’s also tasty when stir-fried or roasted in the oven. Fairy Tale often has a starring role here in my Grilled Eggplant with Tahini Yogurt Sauce. I also like to slice it in half lengthwise, then brush it with a mix of olive oil and minced garlic, which is what I did to the ones in the below photo before they hit the grill.
I hope you have enjoyed this spotlight on a variety of eggplant that won me over and made me a big fan, despite my initial impression of it. Seeds for Fairy Tale are widely available from a number of sources in the U.S. I’ll be back soon with another variety.
To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.