Eggplant how to grow

How to Grow Eggplant Successfully from Seed to Harvest

Learn expert techniques for growing eggplant from seed. Grow, care, and harvest eggplant the right way and you’ll get a big harvest of this amazing purple vegetable!

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and is closely related to potatoes and tomatoes. It is most commonly recognized as a large blackish-purple vegetable known for it’s use in dishes such as Eggplant Parmigiana, but a short browse through any seed catalog will reveal eggplant in all shapes, sizes and colors.

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And while it is a beautiful and versatile vegetable, growing eggplant isn’t quite as easy as growing other nightshades. But with a few tips you can learn how to grow your own eggplant in the garden!

Want to learn how to grow more? Check out my guides to the 11 easiest crops for new gardeners!

How to Grow Eggplant from Seed In Your Garden

Getting a Head Start Growing Eggplant

To get a head start on your eggplant it is best to start them from seed about 6-9 weeks before your last frost date. They are a warm weather crop and require a soil temperature of about 80 degrees F to germinate properly.

The use of a heating pad, or keeping them in the warmest room of your home, will greatly increase your germination rates. Plant your seeds about 1/4 in. deep in your choice of seed starting medium. It should take between 1 and 2 weeks for your eggplant seeds to germinate.

You may notice that your eggplant seedlings are growing much slower than their relative, tomatoes, and that is because eggplant prefer warmer growing conditions. As it gets closer to spring you should notice their growth rate increase.

Once your seedlings reach about 3 inches tall, transplant them into larger containers. You will not want to transplant your eggplant plants into the garden until the weather has warmed and the daytime temperatures are in the 70s.

You can, however, harden them off outside in later spring before planting them into the ground.

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Planting Your Eggplant Outside

Whether you buy your plants from a nursery or start your own, you do not want to plant out your eggplant until the soil and air temperatures have sufficiently warmed.

Raised beds and plastic mulch can be used to help warm the soil a little earlier in the season.

Here are some tips on getting your eggplant off to a good start:

  • Choose your location wisely. Growing eggplant needs full sun and well-drained soil.
  • Give them room to grow by placing at least 2-3 ft between each plant.
  • Eggplant does not like standing water, but do need to be watered deeply weekly.
  • Add mulch to help keep the soil cool and conserve water.

To transplant your eggplant seedlings outside, dig a hole that is a little wider and deeper than the root ball of your seedling.

I like to dig compost directly into the planting hole- I usually use mushroom compost. Add a trowel-full of compost and mix it up, then place the eggplant plant in. Make sure the planting depth in the ground is the same as the planting depth in the containers.

Fill the hole and pack down the soil so there are no air pockets and water thoroughly.

Plant your transplants about 2-3 feet apart in all directions. They can get quite bushy- so make sure to give them enough room! This will keep them healthier too.

Troubleshooting Problems While Growing Eggplant

Flea Beetles are by far the worst pest for eggplant. They can destroy and kill a small plant in a matter of days if you aren’t careful.

Starting with larger, healthy plants can go a long way on combating these bugs, but even then they may still struggle.

I keep a good dusting of Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth on all of my eggplant for the first few weeks- reapplying after rain or watering. This is very effective in killing the flea beetles until your eggplant has grown large enough and strong enough to fend for itself.

Other problems pests are the Colorado Potato Beetle and the Tomato Hornworm, both of which can be effectively hand-picked with out much trouble. Check out How to Get Rid of These 8 Garden Pests for more information on getting rid of pests in the organic garden.

Companion planting with beans, herbs, and calendula can also help with these pests. You can learn more about companion planting here: Best Companion Plants for Eggplant in Your Garden

Eggplant is also susceptible to verticillium wilt. Using proper clean gardening techniques and crop rotation can help in prevention.

Eggplant can also do well in a large container- such as a 5-gallon bucket, if wilt is particularly bad in your garden.

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Harvesting and Using Your Eggplant

If you’ve never grown eggplant before, you may be wondering how to tell if your eggplant is ready for harvest.

Eggplant should be picked when it is still on the small size, when the skin takes on a high shine. Like zucchini, you want to pick eggplant when they are immature. This lends to a better flavor and smoother flesh.

Picking often will also encourage more growth and a more abundant harvest for you. When you cut open an eggplant, it should have a soft inside with very small, soft seeds.

If the inside is on the tougher side or the seeds have begun to harden, your eggplant is past it’s prime and will have a more bitter taste.

To harvest, you’ll need a sharp knife or a pair of scissors to cut through the tough stems. Many eggplant plants are spiny and will hurt if you grab and try to pull them off!

It’s almost impossible to break the eggplant off the plant with just your hands- so a a cutting utensil is a must!

Eggplant can be stored short term at 50-54F, but always try to use or preserve it right away. If you are lacking in recipe inspiration, here are more than 50 Eggplant Recipes to Try!

More about Using and Preserving Your Eggplant:

  • How to Preserve Eggplant
  • Baked Eggplant Crisps
  • Baked Eggplant Vegetarian Meatballs
  • Eggplant Crisp

Listada De Gandia Eggplant harvest

Varieties of Eggplant to Try

Ping Tung: This is a long, thin eggplant that comes out of Taiwan. The plants are extremely prolific and the fruits are tender, mild and sweet. This is one of my favorites to grow!

Purple Long: Coming from Italy, this eggplant has a more delicate flavor. It’s flesh is tender without a lot of seeds.

Rosita: These eggplant are a lovely bright purple color. The flesh is white and mild and the skin is very tender.

Black Beauty: This is your standard black, egg shaped eggplant. It requires a little longer of a season than some and isn’t as productive, but it is a good standby in your garden.

Listada De Gandia: This is one of my favorite eggplant varieties (pictured above). It’s a beautiful, full eggplant with purple and white striping. Tender flesh and great flavor.

Related Reading: Top 7 Eggplant Varieties to Grow

FAQ for Growing Eggplant:

How long does it take for eggplant to grow?

If you are starting your eggplant from seed you can expect to harvest in 100-150 days depending on the variety you are growing.

It’s a little quicker if you are growing from transplants, taking about 70-85 days from planting in the ground to harvest.

When is eggplant ready to pick?

After it’s been the right amount of time, how do you know when eggplant is ripe and ready? A ripe eggplant will be glossy, firm, and uniformly colored.

If you are unsure if your eggplant is ripe or not, cut one and off the plant and cut it open:

  • No seeds at all? Under-ripe.
  • Large dark seeds? Overripe.
  • Tiny, soft seeds? Just right.
  • Pithy skin? Overripe.

It’s always best to harvest slightly immature fruits than overripe.

What do eggplant seedlings look like?

Eggplant seedlings don’t look the same as other night shades like tomatoes or peppers, and if you know what you are looking for they are easy to identify.

Eggplant seedlings have more round leaves when it comes to their first true leaves. Here’s a picture of eggplant seedlings, both just after sprouting and just before transplanting:

Is eggplant a fruit?

Well- that depends on who you ask.

Scientifically and botanically speaking, the eggplant is a fruit. It meets the technical definition of fruit which is the reproductive body of a plant containing the seeds.

When it comes to the kitchen, most people consider eggplant a vegetable though.

Want to learn more about the distinction? Check out these articles: Is a cucumber a fruit? or Is a tomato a fruit (if you want to read about the legal definition as well!)

Beginning gardener? Check out these articles:

11 Tips for a Successful First Garden

The Ultimate Guide to Companion Planting

How to Grow Vertically in the Garden

Zucchini or Eggplant? Do you care which one is healthier?

Both zucchini and eggplant are nutritious and flavorful vegetables that we need in everyday diet. These vegetables are similar in many aspects, but which one is your choice? Do you care about their differences?

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Who would ever guess that zucchini actually belongs to fruit?

From the botanical point of view, that squashy, watery thing is a fruit just like melons and pumpkins.

How much zucchini can surprise us is obvious from fact that we use it as an ingredient in many different cakes, bread, and pastry. It fits perfectly with every meal with meat, in soups and stews.

The power of simplicity

There are many types of zucchini, which is also called the summer squash or courgette, and it comes in many sizes, and colors, but with the same mild taste.

Photo: Types of zucchini that you can find

However, don’t confuse the size with their nutritive value – bigger doesn’t mean healthier. The best advice is to take the smaller and dark ones for a perfect, fresh and authentic flavor.

Where is the eggplant in this story?

The eggplant, same as zucchini, is a fruit. Again, it has a role of a vegetable; it comes in many colors but mostly in white and purple. Like its name suggests, the eggplant has a shape of an egg, but in the size of the zucchini.

Photo: The most popular type of eggplant – purple eggplant

How to choose which one is better for your everyday diet

  • Origin

While the eggplant comes from India, zucchini comes from Mexico where it has been an integral part of everyday nutrition for more than 7000 years. Italians discovered zucchini in the 19th century and made them popular worldwide while aubergine, the second name for eggplant, was neglected for a long time.

  • Health benefits

Purple eggplant has many health benefits with its wealth of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It can prevent many heart problems, help in weight loss and control diabetes. It has positive influence on the health of our bones, brain, and entire digestive system.

As opposite to eggplant, zucchini gives a healthy boost to the entire body. The biggest impact this vegetable provides with its anti-inflammatory substances that give protection from any illness. Including zucchini in everyday diet will undoubtedly improve your immune system and overall health.

Yet, zucchini is a bit healthier than the eggplant.

  • Vitamins

By consuming 100 grams of zucchini you’ll’ receive 16kcal, while when you eat eggplant in the same amount, you will get 24 kcal.

However, vitamin C is on the side of zucchini. The summer squash or zucchini has 17 milligrams of this vitamin which is 28% of recommended daily intake, while eggplant has a humble number of 2.2 miligrams. Zucchini also has a lot more vitamin B – 9.5mg while eggplant has 6.9mg. Folic acid can be found a larger amount in zucchini than in an eggplant.

  • Minerals

Both vegetables are loaded with minerals.

While eggplant has less magnesium, only 14 mg, zucchini has 17mg.

Zucchini is richer in calcium with 15 mg while eggplant has only 9mg.

The higher amount of potassium is also found in zucchini with 262 mg while eggplant has 230 mg.

  • Carbs

Eggplant is a bit richer in carbs with 5.7 grams as opposed to 3.3 grams that zucchini has. That indicates that the eggplant has a lot more necessary fiber that can make you feel full for longer. Fiber promotes better digesting, improves heart condition and lowers the cholesterol.

  • Fat

Unsaturated fatty acids make wonders for your body. In eggplant, you can find only 0.09 grams of it, while zucchini has 0.149 grams.

Saturated fatty acid is not so good for the body, but from time to time you need it as well. Eggplant will provide you with 0.04g of it, while zucchini will give you 0.073g of saturated fatty acid.

Pre-cooking Preparation

You can eat zucchini raw, but eggplant needs to be cooked so it wouldn’t remain bitter. Just before cooking, toss a pinch of salt over the chopped slices, let it rest for a while, and then cook it. That is the safest way to avoid bitterness.

Zucchini tastes completely neutral on the other side, so you can prepare it the way you prefer.

Photo: Delicious zucchini wraps

Aubergine has the texture much like meat so it is often present in the vegetarian diet. Because of that, you’ll need an extra oil while cooking. Afterwards, you can dry them on a paper towel to drain extra greasiness.

  • Cooking

You can probably notice that zucchini has a small advantage and it is close to winning this squashy duel. However, by combining these two you can take the real victory.

You can use them in various tasty ways, you can make pies and cakes, salads and soups or just decorate dishes.

Photo: Roasted eggplants

They are perfect even as a replacement for other dishes. Famous moussaka will get a new twist if you use zucchini instead of potato, or go with the eggplant for the next time.

What is more interesting is that zucchini makes the perfect ingredient for soups and stews, its spongy texture keeps all delicious spices and herbs.

Why should we eat both at the same time?

  • Both are low carb and made of fibers which will make you feel full for longer.
  • They are rich in vitamins and minerals
  • You can prepare them in many ways
  • Combining them in the same dish you’ll’ get the most out of flavors and nutrients

Can we call it a draw?

Let’s celebrate both veggies with this tasty meal.

Moussaka with zucchini and eggplant

Ingredients

  • 4 small zucchini cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a skillet. Once the pan is hot, add zucchini and onion. You may need to do this in 2 batches because you don’t want the pan too crowded. The zucchini pieces should all lay flat so that they get nicely browned.

Once zucchini is browned and onions are softened, transfer them to a shallow 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the zucchini and onion.

Add ground beef to the skillet, and cook until no longer pink, breaking it apart with a spoon as it cooks.

Add in garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Pour into baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the cottage cheese and egg in a small bowl. Spoon over ground beef mixture.

Sprinkle feta cheese and Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

How do you like the recipe?

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If you’ve ever stood in front of the vegetable section at the grocery store wondering what to stock up on, here’s the case for two popular options: eggplant and zucchini. Perfect for snacking on thin slices through the day or incorporating into a salad or casserole, these versatile veggies can be worked into a wide range of recipes and are both packed with minerals and vitamins, but if it comes down to it, which one should you buy?

Eggplant vs. Zucchini

We used the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference from the USDA. These figures reflect 1 cup of cubed, cooked eggplant and 1 cup of sliced, cooked zucchini.

Calories

  • Eggplants: 35 calories
  • Zucchini: 27 calories

Both of these diet-friendly veggies are low in calories, making them excellent guilt-free options for when you need to munch on a snack at work.

Fiber

  • Eggplants: 12% of your daily value
  • Zucchini: 9% of your daily value

Eggplant will make your Italian dinner filling with more fiber, so you’ll leave the table totally satisfied.

Carbs

  • Eggplants: 7% of your daily value
  • Zucchini: 4% of your daily value

Both help keep blood sugar in check with few carbs.

Sugar

  • Eggplants: 3.2 grams
  • Zucchini: 3 grams

At roughly 3 grams, both have just a pinch of natural sugar.

Phosphorus

  • Eggplants: 2% of your daily value
  • Zucchini: 10% of your daily value

Zucchini provides a decent dose of bone-forming phosphorus. Phosphorus also helps your body generate energy and moves your muscles.

Potassium

  • Eggplants: 3% of your daily value
  • Zucchini: 7% of your daily value

Both will give you some potassium, which lowers blood pressure.

Vitamin C

  • Eggplants: 2% of your daily value
  • Zucchini: 31% of your daily value

But zucchini leaps ahead with more than a quarter of your recommended vitamin C.

Beta Carotene

  • Eggplants: 1% of your daily value
  • Zucchini: 52% of your daily value

Zucchini is also packed with lots of eye-protecting beta carotene.

Vitamin A

  • Eggplants: 5% of your daily value
  • Zucchini: 14% of your daily value

The green gourd also gives your hair and teeth a boost with way more vitamin A.

Delphinidin

  • Eggplants: 70 milligrams
  • Zucchini: 0 milligrams

And eggplant owes its royal hue to delphinidin, a plant pigment that may help prevent cancer.

So which is healthier, eggplant or zucchini?

The winner: Zucchini!

The bottom line:

Although both veggies deliver plenty of vitamins and minerals, crunchy zukes come out on top with more. This squash ranks fairly low on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, so buying organic isn’t a must. When picking the perfect zucchini, look for ones that are on the smaller side and heavy for their size—they’re more tender than the large ones.

How Tall Do Eggplants Grow?

Eggplant Varieties

The following list describes a variety of eggplant cultivars. It also explains how tall each of the plants grow:

  • Diamond – These eggplants grow to about 2-feet tall, producing dark purple fruit in clusters of four to six.
  • Ichiban – This Japanese eggplant grows to the height of 3 to 4 feet. It produces long, slender purple fruit.
  • Fairy Tale – This is a compact eggplant producing purple fruit with white stripes. It grows to about 2-feet tall.
  • Black Beauty – This popular cultivar grows to about 30 to 36 inches tall and 16-inches wide. It yields deep purple fruit.
  • White Eggplant – This eggplant cultivar grows up to 4-feet tall and 3-feet wide, producing pure white fruit.
  • Baby Bell – This dwarf eggplant only grows to 10 inches, and grows well is small, 6-inch pots. It produces 2-inch miniature fruits.

Eggplant Spacing

The spacing you need for your eggplants depends on the varieties you choose for your garden. The most popular varieties, such as Black Beauty require about 24 inches between the plants and rows about 36-inches apart. This allows space for growth, air circulation, and sunlight to reach all parts of the plant. If you’re planning to plant your eggplants in containers, choosing compact varieties would give you the best results.

Eggplant Harvesting

Pick your eggplants while they’re still young for the best flavor. If you wait too long to harvest your eggplants, they will become soft, dull and mushy with a bitter taste. Choose young, firm, shiny eggplants for the sweetest fruit for all your eggplant recipes. The height of the plant doesn’t matter when it comes to tasty eggplant. Any eggplant cultivar will give you tender, sweet fruit, if harvested at the right time. Picking the eggplant fruit regularly helps your plants to produce more fruit.

By: Joseph Masabni, Assistant Professor and Extension Horticulturist, and Patrick Lillard, Extension Assistant

Eggplant originated in India and is a member of the nightshade family, which includes potato and tomato. At one time the Spanish called it the “apple of love” and considered it an aphrodisiac. Other Europeans called it the “mad apple” and thought it caused insanity. While neither has been proved, eggplant is known to be very nutritious. It is a great source of fiber and has a fair amount of iron, potassium and protein.

Soil preparation

Eggplant prefers well-drained, fertile, sandy loam soils with a pH between 5.5 and 7.2. Remove all weeds and till the soil to loosen it to a depth of 6 to 10 inches. The higher the organic matter content of the soil the better, so incorporate a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost if possible.

Varieties

There are many different varieties of eggplant, including the small, round, green ‘Kermit’ eggplants; the skinny, long Japanese pickling eggplant; and the traditional large ‘Black Bell’ eggplant. Suggested varieties for Texas include:

  • Black Bell
  • Black Magic
  • Epic
  • Classic
  • Florida High Bush
  • Florida Market
  • Night Shadow

Oriental-type varieties that do well in Texas include ‘Ichibon’ and ‘Tycoon’.

Planting

Although eggplant can be seeded directly into the garden, it is always better for the beginning gardener to use transplants. If you can’t find the varieties you want in garden centers, make sure you start seeds 6 to 8 weeks before they are to be transplanted outside. Grow the seeds indoors. They will germinate in 5 days if kept at 86 degrees F, but could take up to 14 days at 65 degrees F. Eggplant is a tropical plant, so it is very sensitive to cold and should not be planted outside until after all risk of frost has passed and daytime temperatures are at least 65 degrees F. The plants will grow to 2 to 4 feet, so space them 24 to 36 inches apart.

Fertilizing

Eggplant needs a consistent supply of nutrients. It is best to get a soil test and follow its recommendations. If no soil test is conducted, add a total of 2 to 3 pounds of a complete fertilizer (6- 12-12, 10-10-10, or 9-16-16) per 1,000 square feet. Apply half the fertilizer before planting and the other half after the first fruits appear.

After transplanting the eggplant, pour ¼ cup of starter solution around each plant. Make a starter solution by dissolving 2 tablespoons of a complete fertilizer in 1 gallon of water.

Watering

Eggplant also needs consistent water, at least 1 inch per week. It is better to give one thorough soaking than several frequent, short waterings, because frequent watering promotes shallow roots. Weather and soil type, of course, will affect water demand. High temperatures, high winds, and sandy soils will all increase the need for water.

Keep weeds under control because they compete with plants for water, nutrients and light. Many different types of mulch can be used, both organic and inorganic, to conserve soil moisture and reduce weed competition.

Insects

Diseases

Quite a few diseases can damage eggplant at various stages, including seed rot, damping-off, anthracnose, late blight, alternaria leaf spot, and verticillium wilt.

Three conditions must be met for a disease to take hold: the presence of the disease pathogen, a susceptible host, and a favorable environment. If any one of these elements is lacking, the disease cannot spread. It is much easier to prevent a disease than to control it.

Diseases can be prevented by planting resistant varieties, rotating crops, using proper irrigation and plant spacing, and practicing good sanitation (such as disposing of diseased plants).

The fruit can be harvested when they are one-third to full size. Harvest before the skin becomes dull and the seeds become hard. One general rule is if you lightly press the side of the fruit with your thumbnail and the indentation stays, then the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked.

While the fruit can be broken off the plant, it is better for the plant if they are cut off. Beware of the spines on the fruit stem, as they can hurt an ungloved hand. Handle the harvested fruit gently so they don’t get bruised.

Storing

Harvested fruit can be stored at 45 to 50 degrees F with 90 percent humidity for a week.

Serving

Eggplant can be cooked many ways. It can be baked, stewed, sautéed, fried or stuffed. It can be cooked whole or in pieces. It can be cubed and used in curries and stews. Baba ghanoush is a dip made from mashed or pureed eggplant with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and a few other spices. And, of course, there is the ever popular eggplant Parmesan.

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