Eggplant is one of those vegetables that you either love or hate – and no in between. It is a really pretty plant with beautiful flowers, and gorgeous, dark purple, purple & white striped or white fruit.
And then there is eggplant Parmesan – which for me, is reason enough to learn how to grow eggplant!
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Planting, Growing & Harvesting Eggplant
The botanical name for eggplant is Solanum melongena var. esculentum
Optimum growing conditions
Eggplant loves really warm weather, so USDA Zone 5 and warmer is best, with a soil ph of 5.5 – 6.8.
Best varieties to plant
I have to give a shout out to Casper – which is an all-white eggplant variety. The skins is thin and not bitter, so using it cuts out the two hours of salting and bitterness removing process I go through when making eggplant Parmesan.
Another favorite is Rosa Bianca – an round fruit with purple and white striped skin. This variety also has a non-bitter, thin skin and doesn’t need the salt treatment.
If you want the traditional deep purple eggplant, then Black Beauty is your best bet.
One variety that I really like, is Ichiban – a long, narrow Asian variety. It is a little difficult to find, and I bought seeds from Amazon using the link above. One year, I actually found Ichiban plants at WalMart! My neighbor had ONE plant – which over the summer – produced over 25 fruit each one at least a foot long!
How to grow eggplant
Eggplant loves hot weather, so be sure to wait until the soil is nice an warm before putting out your transplants.
You can start plants indoors about 8 weeks before you want to put them out in the garden.
I prefer to buy my plants from a local, women-owned farm that I have been going to since I was 4 years old. My dad was friends with the woman who owned the farm back then, and now I am friends with her granddaughter. I get 6 Casper, 6 Dancer (a “pink” eggplant) and 6 Black Beauty. I also grow 2 or 3 Ichiban from seed.
Tip – Use those small, metal tomato cages for each plant, because they will become heavily laden with fruit during the growing season. The wire cage keeps the plants from breaking under the weight.
Water your eggplant a LOT, and use fish emulsion fertilizer once a month to keep them happily producing.
Diseases, pests & problems
Make sure you rotate the eggplant patch, and don’t plant any plants from the Solanaceae family (nightshade) like tomatoes and potatoes in that area, because they all can get the same soilborne diseases. Those diseases include fusarium and verticillium wilt.
Use bonsai shears to cut the mature fruit from the plants so you don’t break the plant when you harvest. And be careful, because the “cap” at the top of the eggplant is pinchy – like it has thorns.
And then make lots of eggplant Parmesan!!