Featured Recipes

Garden egg, Guinea squash, bitter tomato, aubergine, brinjal, gaji, eggplant- whatever you call it- amidst my comprehensive spread of cookbooks and culinary and world history they offer next to no substance save a single customary eggplant recipe or two and move on. Maguelonne Toussaint- Samat's History of Food, a usual starting point for many-a food research, with an eggplant on the cover of the second edition, offers nothing about eggplant at all, while the other texts say something silly like "Europeans brought it back from India/ Africa. It was bitter."

The eggplant lineage that we eat at some point split to what we can roughly call eggplants from China or India and eggplants from Africa. They are related, but not the same. Thailand, Japan, etc adopted the China/ India eggplant and then Europe claimed all of them including some of the African ones (making pre-European contact historical research about them quite difficult to do as that's where a lot of sources like to begin). Researchers believe eggplants were first domesticated in China/ India but those plant's wild origins came from Africa, where many eggplants still roam wild.

In addition to their excellent fiber, minerals and antioxidants, eggplants are great sponges for fats and sauces. It's commonly known around these parts too that many eggplants need salted and some rest time to remove their natural bitterness. I first heard it from fancy cook Deborah Madison who thinks we're dabbing with paper towels because we aren't eating them fresh. That does seem true, but it's also worth thinking about red eggplants from Africa who are always bitter and moreso the longer they stay on the stem. Picking early is a way to temper the bitterness, however one Ethiopian writer when describing eggplants never mentions any process to de-bitter it, instead he waxes about how prized the bitterest ones are- I guess it's a matter of perspective. Deborah also classifies skin toughness by color which, as a grower of eggplants seemed bunk at first but I'll agree in regards only to green skinned, which also have a neat apple-like tartness. Picked on the younger side seems to make for a more tender skin all around. The lesson here boiled down is clearly to get your eggplants in season from the farmer's market, rather than the grocery store, but also maybe to consider embracing some bitter?

One of the earliest known writings on eggplants by a Persian scholar from around the 900's made a big list of reasons not to consume it because of its harm to your health. He then went on to rattle off a slew of great health benefits it offers after it is prepared for eating. And in the 2000's there was up-to-date confirmation by a researcher from Vietnam who found that fermenting raw eggplant in a salt brine for 8 days purged the anti-nutrients it contained such as tannin, phytate, oxalate, and steroidal glycoalkaloid. Great news considering that since eggplant has such a high water content its perishabilibity is fast on the horizon, that coupled with how we need to buy them in season too, fermentation coming in handy again!

Last year we got really into this pickle & marinate technique for our eggplants. It's very delicious but just be mindful to not over poach your eggos or they'll turn to mush in the marinade. But apparently there is also an Eastern-European tradition of doing something similar that's sometimes called Sour Eggplant. Most recipes describe it as eggplants first roasted whole, then cut in half and stuffed with a shredded carrot mixture (garlic, herbs, etc), then either packed in oil or just left at room temperature covered to allow to ferment and get sour. Otherwise preserving eggplant by lacto-fermentation is a breeze, especially because raw they are quite firm and hold shape and texture no problem. There are also recipes around for things like fermented baba ganoush. While I have made it before I can't honestly say it was on purpose (though the popular technique is to ferment the eggplant and use that instead of roasted eggplant rather than just forgetting baba on the counter).

Happy Fermenting!

Market Stand

It's been a strange and bumpy road but we eventually landed on a new place to reseed our farming dreams. As mentioned in an earlier newsletter, farming is the cornerstone of Ferment Pittsburgh for us. We were very fortunate this spring to connect with an enthusiastically supportive family in Plum to move our ground-based dreams to their acreage after our spot for 5 years got eaten up.

We're excited to be doing a vegetable roadside stand near the corner of Friendship and Gross (on Friendship Ave, one house in from the corner) on Tuesdays from about 3:30-7pm. It's a traditional vegetable stand with all the favorites, but this next stand we'll have kombucha scobys packed up to give away for free. Please stop by and say hello. (Keep in mind however that there's pending construction for that sidewalk for an unknown date. It may effect being there some day, not sure.)

Sometimes there's an indistinguishable line between our lives and Ferment Pittsburgh. By supporting our farm you are supporting us, yes, with the hope of generating momentum into bigger things for our Fermenting Dreams. The hope is soon we'll be offering a full slate of hands on educational experiences of farm-to-ferment where we can follow the whole line-up of things as the seasons flows: flax to linen, pick cucumbers for pickles, harvest, grind, and knead grain, etc, etc, etc.
Grow Wheat In Your Garden

Are you ready to try wheat in your garden? It's almost time to plant winter wheat again and if that is something you've always wanted to give a whirl now is the time to get going. We have been working for a bunch of years on developing local seeds to share with you.
A complete tutorial for growing wheat in your garden can be found here. And our lifetime offer is that we will mill your grain on our stone mill for as long as anyone is going to use our seed.
We are offering 1 oz packets for a price of whatever. We'd rather you grow it then not. Homemaked cookies are always welcomed or a couple bucks, or nothing, up to you. There is no shipping, all seeds must be picked up locally in Bloomfield. If you're interested please reach out.
Available Seeds:

Rouge de Bordeaux - Large heavy grain with a strong sturdy stalk. A French heirloom that's great for baking. It's been really reliable for us. A good choice for making bread.

Cervena - Highly productive heirloom from the Czech Republic, the stalks tend to lean some so worth accounting for them leaning out of their assigned plot. The grains are purple and high in anthrocyanins.

Einkorn - Believed to be the first domesticated grain. The grain is tiny and encased in a hull. Fun grain to grow but it'll take a lot of work to ever get enough processed to eat. Growing it is more like preserving ancient history?

Banatka - This is a cross between a good baking wheat and a strong producer, done by grain seed saver Eli Rogosa. It makes a really tasty loaf. I'd say the yield is more than cervena but less than the Rouge.
Share with us how you are fermenting with the seasons at
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