Eggplant is a delicious vegetable / fruit, 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 rather 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 can display a great many shapes, colors and sizes, be round or long, purple, pink or white, but every variety is always grown in the same manner.
Growing eggplant starts with sowing seeds, but it is also perfectly possible to purchase grown seedlings in your local nurseries.
- 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.
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 pot or nursery pot.
- Sprinkle water over lightly to keep the substrate a bit moist.
- When the seeds sprout, keep only the single most vigorous and beautiful sprout in each pot.
- Transplant when the ground has warmed up sufficiently (at least 55°F 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 anticipate that if you are in milder climates.
- Dig ridges 20 inches (50 cm) apart.
- Place 2 to 3 seeds in the ridges at 20 inch (50 cm) intervals.
- Cover with light soil.
- Water regularly.
- Once sprouted, keep the sprout that is the most vigorous in every seed hole.
Good companion plants for eggplant
To maximize eggplant growth, it helps to plant them closer to, or further from, other vegetables, because eggplants have their friends and foes.
Planting certain plants close to other vegetables is an important factor in both 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.
Growing and caring for eggplant
When a plant bears many eggplant fruits, it is good to remove several fruits when they are still small so that only up to 15 or so fruits remain on each plant.
- This guarantees that you will have plump, beautiful eggplants.
Remove suckers that grow out from the base because they tend to drain the plant’s resources in vain.
A good mulch at the base of your eggplants helps retain soil moisture and avoid weed growth.
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 the other plants of the nightshade family, eggplant is regularly attacked by blight. Blight is one of the most common diseases for eggplants.
- 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 those 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 attack entire eggplant rows.
- Here is how to fight aphids in a natural way.
Together with tomato which is also part of the nightshade family, eggplant, in Europe, is also under attack by this moth. Since 2009, the invasion started spreading throughout the continent. It can destroy 100% of any given harvest.
- This shows how to fight against the tomato pinworm (same parasite as for tomato).
Spots on eggplant leaves
One disease in particular is very common in the vegetable patch, Septoria. This fungal disease infects many plants. One strand in particular infects eggplant, tomato, bell pepper and chili plants: Septoria lycopersicum.
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.
Health benefits of eggplant
Most of these anti-oxidant properties come from the cells forming the skin of the eggplant fruit.
There are significant quantities of manganese, copper, vitamins B6 and B1, which remain even after having boiled the fruit.
Smart tip about eggplant
An eggplant is ready for harvest when its hue is deep and its size has reached the normal mature size.
You can see this when daily growth marks don’t appear near the eggplant stem anymore.
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Loaded eggplant bush by Anna Hesser under © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Eggplant leaves by Kim & Forest Starr under © CC BY 4.0
Harvesting eggplant by Jacqueline Macou ★ under Pixabay license
Eggplant bloom by Sister M.Jutta under Pixabay license
Eggplant growing by マクフライ 腰抜け under Pixabay license