Turkish Orange Brinjal
Orange is the new black
Even more beautiful than the brinjal you’re used to, the Turkish orange brinjal is a stunner in the garden and the kitchen.
Aubergines, brinjals, eggplants – whatever you call them, they’re versatile and can be delicious. They’re also usually deep purple or black, while the varieties that gave rise to the name ‘eggplant’ are small, round and, you guessed it, white. But here’s another colour variation, which we think could be the most beautiful one of all – the Turkish orange brinjal.
An heirloom brinjal variety that originated in, you guessed correctly again, Turkey, the Turkish orange brinjal (also commonly called the Turkish orange aubergine or Turkish orange eggplant) produces large quantities of medium-sized, bright orange round fruits that closely resemble persimmons, little pumpkins or tomatoes, and they are actually from the same family as the latter.
While it is commonly understood that this heirloom brinjal variety developed in Turkey, it seems that the origins of its ancestors are closer to home – perhaps Ethiopia but almost certainly somewhere in Africa. And to confuse things a little more, some people throw the word ‘Italian’ into the name and call it the Turkish Italian brinjal or Italian orange brinjal – although this has to do with its popularity in that European country and not a claim that it hails from there. Growing heirloom fruit and vegetable varieties is so worthwhile because of the possibility that you will make new discoveries every time you talk to a fellow heirloom grower or venture onto your favourite heirloom seed website. Having a variety that looks (and often tastes) nothing like the more popular supermarket fare is a great way to get people talking about and eating fresh product.
As with other brinjals, this heirloom needs hot conditions and full sun to do well, planted in fertile soil to which compost and a slow-release fertiliser have been added. Fertilise as you would tomatoes, which means feeding every two weeks with a balanced organic fertiliser. Seeds (it’s hard to find seedlings of many heirlooms, so this is normally your only option) should be sown 5mm below the surface and will germinate in 10 – 14 days. Sow after the danger of frost has passed and the soil is beginning to warm up. Water requirements are moderate, but the plants will appreciate more water during hotter periods. This particular variety of brinjal shouldn’t require staking, as it generally forms a neat, rounded little bush, but the weight of fruit may pull it over, in which case a lending hand would probably be of benefit.
Your crop should be ready about 75 days after germination, and these orange treasures should be picked before they reach the height of their orange magnificence – they’re less bitter when they’re still a little green. As with many heirlooms, the Turkish orange brinjal offers bags of flavour, although the downside is more seeds in the fruit and the relatively smaller fruit overall. They have a meaty texture that is particularly suited to roasting, stuffing or baking, while my wife loves to fry them and use them as a topping on pizzas or in wraps.
Brinjals are ‘buzz pollinated’. This means that the frequency of the pollinators wings buzzing stimulates the flower into releasing the pollen!