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Eggplant Growing

Eggplant seedlings
Eggplant Growing: Grow eggplant when days are warm; plant in compost rich well-drained soil.

Aubergine or eggplant? You’ll find this vegetable under either name in cookbooks. Eggplant is the name used by most American speakers. Aubergine is chiefly a British usage.

Eggplant was the name originally given to the white-skinned, egg-shaped variety of the vegetable sometime in the mid-eighteenth century. Aubergine followed about 30 years later. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the term eggplant included the purple-skinned aubergine.

Try any color eggplant stuffed with chopped tomatoes, onions, and garlic cooked in olive oil. This tasty dish is called “The Iman Fainted.” It seems an Iman married a beautiful young girl who brought eggplant and olive oil as part of her dowry. Every night after they were married, she served the Iman stuffed eggplant. When the eggplant was gone, the husband asked his new wife where his favorite meal was. When she explained they had run out of eggplant, the Iman fainted.

Eggplant is always served cooked. You can bake, grill, stew, and deep-fry eggplant. Stuff eggplant and prepare for the Iman to faint.

Basics for growing eggplant in your kitchen garden:

Site. Grow eggplant in full sun. In hot regions where the temperature tops 100°F (38°C), it’s best to protect plants with shade covers. Avoid cool locations because eggplant blossoms will drop if temperatures fall below 50°F (10°C). Eggplant is a very tender vegetable that grows best in growing zones 5–12. It will grow as a perennial in growing zones 10 and 11.

Soil. Eggplant prefers light, humus-rich, well-drained, warm soil. If planted in early spring, eggplant grows best in light sandy soils; loam is preferred for later crops. In high rainfall regions or in areas with poor drainage, grow eggplant in raised beds.

Container Growing Eggplant. Eggplant will grow in a container at least 12 inches (30 cm) deep; choose a space-saving variety. Grow eggplant in containers in short season regions where containers will retain heat and can be moved to protected locations when temperatures cool.

Black Beauty eggplant
Black Beauty eggplant

Planting Eggplant. In cold-winter climates, sow eggplant indoors 6–8 weeks before planting out. Transplant eggplant outdoors when the daytime air temperature average at least 70°F (21°C) and night temperatures remain above 55°F (13ºC). In cool regions, use row covers to control the air temperature or warm the soil by covering with black plastic.

Sow eggplant seed ¼ –½ inches (6–12 mm) deep and 3–5 inches (7.5–13 cm) apart. Later thin plants to 18–24 inches (45–60 cm) apart in all directions. In long-season climates, you can make small plantings 4 weeks apart to lengthen the harvest. Eggplant will mature in 100–140 frost-free days from seed; 50–75 frost-free days for transplants.

Watering Eggplant. Keep the soil around eggplants moist. Soak the soil deeply using water basins around each plant. Poor blossom set and fruit color may be caused by low soil moisture. Use organic compost mulch to keep the soil moist and free of weeds.

Feeding Eggplant. Eggplants require moderate amounts of nitrogen and high amounts of potassium and phosphorus. Feed eggplant every 3–4 weeks with fish emulsion or compost tea to deliver these nutrients.

Companions. Eggplants grow well with all beans, peas, peppers, potatoes, and southern peas. Avoid growing eggplant with corn, fennel, and tomatoes. Avoid planting eggplants where peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, or other eggplants were grown during the past 2 years.

Eggplant Pests. Aphids, beetles, cutworms, and other insect pests can attack eggplants. Use row covers to deter insect pests or apply a light dusting of ground limestone to the plants. Place collars around eggplants at the time of transplanting to discourage cutworms.

Eggplant Diseases. Several viruses and fungi can plague eggplant. Plant resistant varieties, clear debris from the garden, and use a 3-year crop rotation to combat disease.

Harvest Eggplant. Pick eggplant when shiny, firm, and full-colored. Mature fruit is soft enough that thumb pressure will leave an indentation in the flesh of the fruit. Use shears to clip the fruit with stem attached. Harvest eggplant regularly to encourage further fruiting. Each plant usually produces 3–4 well-developed fruits.

Eggplant Varieties. Choose from these eggplant types and varieties: ‘Black Beauty’ the classic purple-skinned variety; ‘Dusky’ is purple, and ‘Rosa Bianca’, heirloom with white skin and lavender streaks. There are also many Asian eggplant varieties.

More tips at How to Grow Eggplants.

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10 Comments

  1. Regarding the word eggplant: the word commonly used in England for eggplant is ‘aubergine’. Aubergine is borrowed from the French; the French word is from Catalan ‘albergínia’, which is from Arabic ‘al-bādinjān’ (with the definite article al-), itself borrowed from Persian ‘bādingān’, which is probably from Middle Indo-Aryan vātiñjana-, vātingana-; most sources attribute the latter form to Sanskrit, but I don’t find it in my dictionaries.
    The Arabic word is the source also of Spanish berenjena, which the Italians (assimilating it to mela ‘apple’) borrowed as melanzana, which they then folk-etymologized as mela insana ‘mad apple’;….” In the Spanish of Mexico, by the way: it’s ‘berenjena’.
    Lloyd

  2. Well, Lloyd, that is a mouthful of eggplant. Might I add that a tasty mouthful of eggplant can be had by simply sauteeing thin eggplant slices for about 7 minutes in extra virgin olive oil; a bit of pressed garlic clove, a couple drips of fresh lemon juice and sea salt and pepper to taste will round out the flavor. Late summer to early fall are the peak seaon for eggplant!

  3. I have planted eggplant and have quite alot of fruit on the plants. I’m not sure if I should harvest them or not – they are still more white in color but seem to be at a size I should pick them. Do they have to be purple before picking? I do have some very small (2-3″) ones that are already dark purple. Why is this – they are all the same variety.

  4. Here are some general guidelines for harvesting eggplant: Pick eggplants for use when the fruit is one-third to fully mature. ‘Black Beauty’ the egg-shaped, glossy, purple-black eggplant (which can grow to 10 inches long when fully mature) can be picked when 3 to 5 inches in diameter. ‘Black Beauty’ ready for harvest will have skin that is bright and glossy, not streaked. (Don’t worrry about the size if the color is right; bigger is not better with eggplants.) To test any eggplant for maturity, press the fruit with your thumb. If the flesh springs back it is immature and needs more time; if the indentation remains, the fruit is mature and ready for harvest and use. Just mature eggplants will have tender flesh and seeds that are smaller; Yummy! Plants harvested too mature will be pithy. If you pick fruit sooner rather than later, more fruit will develop on the same plant. (Cut the stems with a knife or pruning shears so as not to break branches.) Not all fruit on an eggplant will come to harvest at the same time (remember back to the bloom period, not all of the blossoms appeared at the same time); some fruit will be ready for picking before others; some fruit will grow larger than others before maturing; that’s Nature! The important thing is to love all of your children and friends and eggplant the same, no matter their differences.

  5. i have beautiful black beauty plants with 1-2 large fruit on each. so many flowers then the stem of the flower seems to soften and the whole thing falls off. Some have set fruit others not. any ideas?

    • Given your description, I would first be concerned if pollinators–bees–are visiting your plants. If the flowers are not pollinated, they flowers will eventually fall off. Be sure you are attracting bees–you can plant bee attracting plants near your growing beds. A second concern would be chilly weather; if temps are dropping much below 70F, your heat-loving eggplants may be reacting to the cold; as well, temps much above 95F will also affect blossoms. Protect plants with extremes in temps with poly row covers and shade cloth–but don’t cover them completely so the pollinators can visit.

  6. I am from South Africa Cape Town I feed my eggplant with a acid base fertilizer. Is this okay because I don’t get the disired quality of product

    • Feed eggplants a complete organic fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus and potassium, such as 5-10-10. If magnesium and calcium are added to the fertilizer as well, that would be a plus.

  7. I have questions
    What is the role of ligth on physiological process of eggplant?role of tempearture?role of nutrients?role of water? Role of plant hormone?

    Stress of eggplant affecting cell division,senescence and death?

    Bolting and solution?

    Physiological disorder leading to pre and post harvest losses in egg plant?

    • Environmental factors affect the growth of all plants including eggplants and other vegetables. Light, water, and nutrients along with temperature affect plants much like they affect humans–they can spur growth and in their absence or overabundance can become stressors.

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