Eggplant is a delicious fruit vegetable, a must-have in any vegetable patch.
A summary of eggplant facts
Name – Solanum melongena
Family – Solanaceae or nightshade
Type – vegetable, annual
Height – 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 m)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rich enough
Sowing – winter or spring
Harvest – July to October
Although eggplant can be grown quite easily, a few rules on growing and caring for the plant must be followed to avoid diseases and spur strong growth.
Sowing and planting eggplant
Eggplant exists in many shapes, colors and sizes: round or long, purple, pink or white, but every variety is always grown in the same manner.
Eggplant growing starts with sowing seeds, but it is also possible to purchase seedlings in your local nursery.
- Eggplant loves humus-rich soils.
- A good deal of sunlight is required.
- Regular watering during the summer, and temperatures higher than 65°F (18°C) are required.
Read here: Detailed instructions on how to plant eggplant
How to sow eggplant
First of all, begin with indoor sowing at a temperature of at least 65°F (18°C) from January/February to April to prepare for transplanting from April to June depending on your zone.
- Put 2 or 3 seeds per nursery pot.
- Drizzle water to keep the substrate a bit moist.
- When seeds sprout, keep only the single most vigorous sprout in each pot.
- Transplant when the ground has warmed up (at least 55°F or 12°C).
- When transplanting to the open field, place plants at least 20 inches (50 cm) apart.
Direct sowing of eggplant
It is possible to sow directly in the plot if the risk of freezing is over, because eggplants are vulnerable to the cold.
If you are in colder zones, wait for mid-May, but you can start earlier in milder climates.
- Dig furrows 20 inches (50 cm) apart.
- Place 2 to 3 seeds in the ridge at 20 inch (50 cm) intervals.
- Cover with light soil.
- Water regularly.
- Once sprouted, keep the sprout that is most vigorous in every seed hole.
Good companion plants for eggplant
Planting certain plants nearby is an important factor in either failing or succeeding to grow eggplants.
- Eggplant LOVES growing together with: tarragon, bean, parsley, bell pepper, pea, thyme, tomato.
- Eggplant HATES being planted together with: onion, potato.
Read also: Companion planting with vegetables
Growing and caring for eggplant
Remove side shoots, and especially, pinch the plant once it has produced 2 or 3 bunches of flowers, so that it may branch out.
- This guarantees that you will have a plump, beautiful harvest.
Remove suckers that grow out from the base, they tend to drain the plant’s resources for nothing.
Good mulch at the base of your eggplants will retain soil moisture and avoid weeds.
Diseases and parasites that attack eggplant
Eggplant, like most fruits and vegetables, is vulnerable to multiple diseases and parasites.
To strengthen your eggplant, add tomato fertilizer once or twice during the vegetation phase and during fruit growth.
Like other plants of the nightshade family, eggplant is often attacked by blight. Blight is one of the most common eggplant diseases.
- Heat and high moisture spur the growth of this fungus, so be sure to space your plants out as much as possible.
- When watering, avoid wetting leaves because this increases the spread of diseases.
- If plants are already contaminated, the only solution to keep blight from spreading is to destroy sick plants.
- Spraying regularly with Bordeaux mixture also protects against the spread of the disease.
Eggplant and red spider mite
Oppositely, if the weather is too dry, there is a risk of an onslaught of red spider mites. Eggplant leaves are covered with gray spots that then turn red, brown or yellow.
- Here is how to fight red spider mite.
Aphids and eggplant
Lastly, but just as devastating, aphids can weaken entire rows of eggplant.
- Here is how to fight aphids in a natural way.
Together with tomato (also a nightshade), in Europe, eggplant is under attack by this moth. Since 2009, it has been spreading across the continent. It can destroy 100% of your harvest.
- This shows how to fight against the tomato pinworm (same parasite as for eggplant).
Spots on eggplant leaves
Depending on when sowing or planting was performed, harvest takes place between summer and fall.
A way to check if the fruit is ripe is when it has stopped growing larger and the skin has taken on a shiny gloss.
All there is to know about eggplant
Coming in purple or white colors, there are different varieties in shape and size, but they are all grown in the same manner.
It is a summer vegetable much appreciated in such dishes as ratatouille, baked with cheese in an oven or simply as eggplant caviar, marinated in oil with garlic.
- Raw eggplant is not very palatable due to its high saponin content and sponge-like texture.
- Once cooked, its savors are released and the texture becomes soft and melts in the mouth, similarly to that of the penny bun mushroom.
Smart tip about eggplant
An eggplant is ready for harvest when its size has reached the normal mature size (daily growth marks don’t appear near the stem anymore).