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Purple jewel 

Last year was a tough one in my garden. I fought gophers, and the gophers won. Things started out well enough. Raised planter boxes already existed at the house I had just moved to, so I decided to use them, carefully cultivating little seeds into seedlings before transplanting them into these boxes that I didn't have to build! That was mistake No. 1. As my tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, squash, and zucchini started to grow, they also started to disappear—pulled through holes that popped up around their roots. I dug up one of the planter boxes and found that the little devils had chewed holes through the crappy plastic "chicken wire" that somebody had laid down. I carefully removed the plants that were left and ripped everything out. Using some leftover fencing and leftover plastic-coated actual chicken wire, I fashioned a couple of large planter boxes, dug out the dirt, filled them, and replanted! That was mistake No. 2, but I wouldn't find out until almost the end of the summer. The maturation on my carefully selected and saved, painfully planted and replanted vegetables was now stunted. It took a while for the tomatoes to appear and even longer for them to turn from green to yellow, orange, and red. Peppers and squash came first, then eggplant. Now, I would like to sing a love song to my eggplant. I watched as the little elongated veggies went from white to purple. They were soft and succulent. Perfect to have with my eggs in the morning. The thought of a freshly plucked eggplant, sliced and diced, added to my pre-work scramble makes me dream of midsummer. The warming air and smell of the leaves on my hands. Alas, I didn't get to finish picking all of my little jewels because the damn gophers got them again! One by one, they chewed through the roots and pulled them through the ground. I've got plans for this year's garden, and it includes annihilating those little vegetable munchers and a steel cage.

Get your eggplant seeds or seedlings from the local nursery. You won't regret it. Δ

Camillia Lanham is really into eggplant. Send your comments to clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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