JIMMY WILLIAMS and SUSAN HEEGER are the authors of From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share With People You Love (Chronicle Books, 2011). Williams is an urban farmer. Heeger is a journalist. Both live in Los Angeles.

"The deep-purple giant eggplant sold at supermarkets is just one form this vegetable takes. Others—hard to find unless you grow them yourself—include long, thin ones; green varieties; and some that look like plums.

Rich and creamy, these smaller types are a snap to grow in full sun and summer heat (the hotter, the better). Start seeds indoors in bright light three weeks before the last predicted frost, or buy seedlings from a farmers' market. Plant the seedlings 10 to 18 inches apart, spreading half a cup of organic fertilizer around each. Let the soil dry a bit between waterings. Within weeks, you'll be enjoying caponata, moussaka, and baba ghanouj."