Eggplants, Solanum melongena, are beautiful, colorful, unique, and among the most fun crops to grow. Rich in fiber, potassium, and manganese, the eggplant is a nightshade and is related to tomato, potato, and pepper and is considered a native of India. Eggplants come in a variety of colors, including purple, white, pink, and green and can range from 12 in long to only 1 or 2 in.
The French word aubergine is used in many places outside the United States to refer to eggplant (and the dark purple color typically associated with it).
Like tomatoes and peppers, eggplants love hot weather. This can make them tough to grow in our mild, coastal climate, but we plant them anyways and usually have great results. If growing in cooler climates we suggest choosing the warmest, sunniest part of your garden-probably right by the tomatoes-for the best results.
Recommended varieties: There are many shapes and sizes of eggplants from all over the world.
Nadia or Rosa Bianca: These are European and American varieties that are the large purple or purple-white types often seen in grocery stores.
Ping Tung: This Asian type is long and slender with few seeds. These varieties tend to ripen earlier than other types so they are a good choice for cooler climates.
Tips for growing:
Fertilize before planting. Then again 3 and 6 weeks after transplanting. Use ¼ cup balanced fertilizer per plant.
If planted in a warm location, eggplant does not require a tremendous amount of cultural care, but check regularly for pest or disease problems. The fruit can become heavy, and the plants may require stalking.
- Harvest eggplant as soon as they are the size you like. They can be harvested early when still small and, may have a softer texture at this stage. Harvesting often will encourage the plant to continue producing.
- Eggplant will continue to set flowers until the end of the season, but since summer will inevitably come to and end, flowers set in the fall will never have a chance to develop into fruit. Removing the flowers during the last few weeks of the summer will encourage the plant to put energy into the fruit that is already set. This will help the last fruit to size up fully before the cold weather hits.
Our favorite cookbooks for eggplant-inspired dishes!