Nearly every summer in Seattle is so cold that climatologists officially classify it as the Year of the Green Tomato, which is the phenomenon where you have tons of tomatoes but none of them ripen. Ever. I didn’t think we could grow eggplants here. I was thrilled and amazed that kale and broccoli produced all summer and that cauliflower matured beautifully in the cool climate, but I wanted peppers, and tomatoes and I especially wanted eggplants. I’m used to those slender, violet-streaked, creamy Asian eggplants that are lovely in curries and stir-fry and grilled. I remember heaps of them – the white ones, the violet ones, the big round Italian ones and the little pingpong sized green ones that were the summer mainstay of most of the farmer’s markets in my area. That’s what I wanted.
Since it really was a Green Tomato year, I didn’t think the plants would thrive. But they did, and yesterday I was thinking of the color purple and the eggplants beckoned. In a few minutes I had picked a nice assortment of their purpleness and really had a look at them. Some are the size of a small hen’s egg, and I think those are the kind that are pickled and prized as a delicacy in Japan. Some are pointed and the size of a large jalapeno pepper, and others a bit flattened. I was struck by their blackened purple hue: this is the color you would get if you totally messed up your calculations and put in 10% Logwood Grey in your dyebath instead of 1%. I’ve done that before. There’s an initial elation at seeing this amazing color, but then you are a bit puzzled, then suspicious, and then horrified at how much of this very expensive dye you have dumped into your dye pot. The next step is to pull out every piece of mordanted cloth and yarn you have and proceed to dye everything purple because you just cannot waste the dye. Thank goodness it’s a popular color.