04 August 2009

Weeding the aubergines

Notice that I used the French term for eggplant in my title, as my British friends very sensibly do whenever they talk about these vegetables. They just call them aubergines, without flinching.

What a confusing term eggplant is in American English! The singular "eggplant" is okay to describe the vegetable itself (it's a fruit, really) — it's "an eggplant." But even that's slightly off kilter, because it's not a plant, but just a part of one. It's not an egg either, but you knew that.

Eggplant plants

What do you do with the plural? Is "eggplant" a count noun — "Here are some eggplants." — or it it a collective term — "I'd like three eggplant, please." I really don't know. I'm pretty sure that I'd day: "I bought some eggplant at the store today," using the collective singular.

Fleurs d'aubergines
Click the pictures to enlarge them for a better view.

And then what is the plant itself called? An "eggplant plant"? I feel silly saying that. "I'd like three eggplant plants, please." In French it's easier. For some reason, a plant is called « un pied ». Yes, "a foot."

I just did a Google search on the term pied de tomate and I see that some people pluralize only the word pied when they talk about several tomato plants, or pieds de tomate, but others make both words plural: trois pieds de tomates, for example. Either way, the S's aren't pronounced, so when you say pieds de tomate(s) nobody knows whether you're putting an S on tomate or not. Just don't write it.

In France, then, you might buy "six eggplant feet" to plant in your garden. That's six eggplant plants, and you probably didn't even know eggplant — eggplants? — had feet. I think you have to understand "foot" as the base of the plant — the rootstock. The thing it stands on.

A caterpillar on a rhubarb leaf

At least in French you don't have to say thing like "I'm going to plant some eggplant plants in my garden." And even in the U.K., you are exempt from having to use such a clumsy expression. You'd just plant an aubergine plant. That just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

Une punaise on a rhubarb leaf.
The French-English dictionary translates punaise as "bug

Okay, I got carried away. Yesterday I didn't plant any eggplant plants, but I did weed some aubergine plants. They needed it. First, there was a lot of coriander growing among them, and it had all gone to seed. We are going to save the seeds for future plantings. There was also a lot of crabgrass growing on the ground under everything. I wet the earth well to soften it up sufficiently, and I went at the crabgrass with the weeding tool. It came out of the ground without much resistance.

Rhubarb, the second coming

On a roll, I then weeded the rhubarb patch, which is right next to the aubergine patch. The rhubarb turned out to be surprisingly robust-looking. It was so overgrown we hadn't seen it in a while. We'll have a second rhubarb crop this year. There were quite a few caterpillars, bugs, and big orange slugs on the ground around the pieds de rhubarbe and on the leaves.

Today, I'm going to unleash my fury on the tomato patch. There are way too many nasturtiums growing in there, not to mention serious, natural, hardy, local weeds. Yesterday Walt spied a nearly ripe tomato about the size of a volleyball in the middle of the tomato patch, but you'd need a machete to get in there to pick it. Now where is my machete?


  1. I don't have a vegetable garden, but I was wondering if you could use some "paillis" that will prevent the weeds from growing around your plants?

    If you bake some rhubarb pie can you post its picture, I love rhubarb pie ;)

  2. I think your caterpillar is one of the tiger moths.

    In French punaise=bug in the proper sense that punaise is only used when one is speaking about true bugs ie hemiptera, and not in the more general sense that bug is used in American English, where it means just about any invertebrate. Your punaise is indeed a bug.

  3. You made my day. Your blog is SO funny. We still don't know why eggplant(s) are called that. The fruit is not even in the shape of an egg! Not to mention the color! And its taste is anything but egg-like! Of course, in French, aubergine means nothing else but that. From now on I'll stick to aubergine, but I may have a problem back in the US!

  4. Ken,

    That third pic looks like a masterpiece when you enlarge it. Thank you for the pictures

    BTW: On the island where I grew up, they call the aubergines plants ,"les pieds de bringelles":Bringelle is the créole (or patois) word pour aubergine

  5. See, now, I learn something new everyday! I had no idea to use the word pied like that. Thanks!

    And Susan, I SORT OF learned something from you, except that I don't know what a hemiptera is, or what you mean by a true bug :)) Would you explain? Merci!


  6. don't think i've ever seen eggplant flower before...they're gorgeous...talked to my fig lady yesterday who lives down in Columbus (nc) and figs r still small evidently (sniff)...she has the biggest tree i've ever seen & lets me come pick....maybe there was a late frost that held them up this yr....i hope to get some of my fav. fruit...r the figs ripe there?

  7. Hi Melinda, yes, the figs here are ripe. Our neighbor just came over to bring us some mirabelle prunes, and she said the figs are now finished. Birds and insects have finished them already. Too bad. She gave us a dozen or so that I poached in a sugar syrup with vanilla, Triple Sec, and Kirschwasser. Delicious.

  8. How many eggs would an eggplant plant if an eggplant could plant eggs?

    Egg plants and crab grass? Truly yours is a garden of wonders....

  9. LoL, Patrick. Here's a link to a French Wiki article about crabgrass, a.k.a. Digitaria sanguinalis ou millet sanguin.

  10. Judy: True bugs belong to the taxonomic order Hemiptera (translates as 'half-wings'). Bugs have piercing mouthparts which they use to suck - either plants or other insects, unlike beetles (taxonomic order Coleoptera - translates as 'hard-wings'), which have jaws and chew their food.


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