- Quick Guide to Growing Eggplant
- Soil, Planting, and Care
- Eggplants: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
- How to Prune Eggplant
- How to Trim Eggplant
- Disinfecting the Pruning Tools
- Pruning the Eggplant’s Branches and Foliage
- Thinning out the Eggplant Fruit
Quick Guide to Growing Eggplant
- Plant eggplant when soil temps are above 50° F and all chances of frost have passed.
- Space eggplant 24 to 36 inches apart and stake them once established to prevent toppling. Choose an area with abundant sunlight and fertile, well-drained soil.
- Improve native soil by mixing in several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter.
- Keep soil moist but not soggy—soaker hoses are a great option.
- Keep your plants fed by feeding them regularly with a continuous-release plant food.
- Apply a layer of mulch made from organic matter, such as finely ground leaves or bark, once plants reach 6 inches tall.
- Harvest eggplant when fruits stop growing and their skin becomes glossy. Remove ripe fruit with gardening shears, leaving a small portion of the stem attached.
Soil, Planting, and Care
Eggplant loves warmth and grows best in very sunny, well-drained locations. Raised beds that have been filled with 100 percent organic Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil (which is just the right weight and texture for optimum root growth) or in-ground in soil that has been generously enriched with composted manure or aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil are ideal. When growing in pots, fill them with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains nutrient-filled compost.
Although their coarse, leathery leaves withstand hot weather in champion style, eggplants benefit from a generous mulch of hay, shredded leaves, or other biodegradable material beneath plants to keep the soil relatively cool and to hold moisture and keep down weeds. Because eggplant really needs warm soil to grow well, gardeners in cool climates often do best growing the plants in large, dark-colored containers. On a sunny day, soil temperatures inside black pots may be 10 degrees or more higher than in-ground soil temperatures. Row covers are also a good option in cool climates, or even to protect plants from cool spells in warm climates. Open the ends of the row covers on warm days to let the bees reach the flowers for help with pollination.
Eggplants grow into tall, angular plants, so they should be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. Improve planting holes by mixing in 2 inches of compost to help hold moisture and fertilizer in the soil. Set plants at the same depth at which they are growing in their containers, and water well before spreading mulch. To help keep plants strong and well fed, fertilize them regularly with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules, following label directions. Combining great soil with premium plant food is a surefire way to have lots of success growing eggplants.
In the case of a late cold spell, you may need to delay planting seedlings until cool weather passes. Should this happen, keep the plants in a sheltered, sunny spot outdoors during the day, and bring them indoors at night.
Be sure to keep plants watered or they will be small and bitter. They need a nice, steady supply of moisture but not so much that the soil is soggy. Drip systems or a soaker hose are ideal.
Eggplants are prone to falling over when loaded with fruit, so you may want to tie plants to stakes to keep them upright. If you drive a stake into the ground just an inch or two from the plant at the time of planting, you won’t disturb the plant by trying to do it later. You can also use small tomato cages to support the plants.
The eggplant emoji first debuted in 2010 and quickly became a symbol for the penis. According to “Among the New Words,” a quarterly article in the journal American Speech, the eggplant emoji was used on Twitter to mean “penis” as early as 2011. In March of 2014, the video artist Jesse Hill “translated” Beyoncé’s hit song “Drunk in Love” into emoji, using the eggplant to represent Jay Z’s penis.
Later that year, the emoji inspired a trend on Instagram and other social-media sites called “#EggplantFriday,” a hashtag that was linked to posts where men posted explicit images of their “eggplants.” But in 2015, Instagram actually blocked the eggplant emoji and references to it (e.g., “#eggplant”) from its search functionality. Instagram’s ban resulted in a campaign called “#FreetheEggplant,” modeled after the similar campaign “#FreetheNipple,” in 2012 for gender equality.
In 2016, the American Dialect Society named the eggplant emoji the “Most Notable Emoji” of 2015 due to its widespread use as sexual innuendo. The eggplant emoji has also inspired two companies, Eggplant in the Mail and the Eggplant Mail, which let customers send actual eggplants in the mail as gag gifts. And, the company Emojibrator released an eggplant emoji vibrator in 2016 … of course.
Nutrition – 1 medium eggplant (peeled):
Calories – 110
Fat – 1 gram
Sodium – 9 grams
Dietary Fiber – 16 grams
Protein – 5 grams
Synonyms: aubergine = berenjena = brinjal = garden egg = egg apple = patlican = melongene = melanzane = Guinea squash
Did you know that at one time, women in the Orient used a black dye made form eggplant to stain their teeth a gun metal gray? The dye probably came from the same dark purple eggplant we see in the marketplace today.
The eggplant is a member of the potato family, and it is known worldwide as aubergine, eggplant, brinjal, melanzana, garden egg, and patlican. It is available year-round, with the peak season during the months of August and September.
There are many varieties which range from dark purple to pale mauve, and from yellow to white. The longer purple variety is the most commonly eaten. It is one of the more popular vegetables in the world, and it is a staple of Italian cook.
White Eggplants – Eggplants got their name because eggplants used to come in only one color – white. Hanging from the plant, they looked like eggs. The original white eggplant is now very trendy. It is generally smaller than the purple variety, and a lot of people say it is more tender. White eggplants are also smaller and more firmly textured than the common purple eggplant. They are denser, creamier and less bitter, even though they can have more seeds. The skin of a white eggplant is tougher than purple eggplant and must be peeled. White eggplants are available seasonally.
There are two types of white eggplants commonly found in vegetable gardens:
The plant of the ornamental white eggplant (S. ovigerum Dun.) closely resembles the plant of ordinary culinary eggplant (S. melongena L.).
Melongena includes edible varieties of eggplant having white fruit, such as `Albino’ and `White Beauty.’
Male vs. Female Eggplant – Are Eggplants Sexy?
I have this question asked to me all the time. Every time I research this question, I always come up with varied answers. I, personally, do not know the correct answer. Check out what some of the experts say, and you be the judge!
“Male” and “female” eggplant is a case of unfortunate terminology. “Vegetables,” such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, are – botanically speaking – really fruits. The fruits themselves can’t be considered “male or female.” Male pollen was transferred to female parts of the flower, resulting in the fruit we eat. Different varieties of eggplant may be more bitter and contain more noticeable seeds than others. Also, as an eggplant fruit matures, the seeds become more noticeable. So an eggplant picked when very mature to over-mature might appear “seedier” than others picked when less mature, even those from the same plant. Pick eggplant fruits when full size is reached but while the exterior is still a glossy purple. Once the exterior becomes dull purple, the eggplant fruit is over-mature. Source: Robert Cox, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Horticulture, Jefferson County.
There is long-standing controversy about male and female eggplants, which is an inaccurate approach considering the fact that fruits are the product of sex and do not have it. However, it is folk wisdom worth some attention. Eggplants have a dimple at the blossom end. The dimple can be very round or oval in shape. The round ones seem to have more seeds and tend to be less meaty, so select the oval dimpled eggplant. Source: Ron Wolford, Extension Educator-Urban Horticulture & Gardening, and Drusilla Banks, Extension Educator-Nutrition and Wellness, University of Illinois Extension.
Male eggplants tend to have fewer seeds, and are therefore less bitter than female eggplants. To sex an eggplant, look at the indentation at bottom. If it’s deep and shaped like a dash, it’s a female. If it’s shallow and round, it’s a male. Smaller eggplants also tend to be less bitter. Freshness is important, so don’t store them for very long. Source: The Cook’s Thesaurus, by Lori Alden.
Despite the ages old, old-wives tale that there are male and female eggplants and the male of the species is better eating – detected because it has an “outie” blossom end as opposed to the female “innie” blossom end – there is no such thing. I follow different old-wives advice, learned from my many years of cooking with old wives in Italy. Source: The Food Maven Diary, by Arthur Schwartz.
Smaller, immature eggplants are best. Full-size puffy ones may have hard seeds and can be bitter. Choose a firm, smooth-skinned eggplant that is heavy for its size; avoid those with soft or brown spots. Gently push with your thumb or forefinger. If the flesh gives slightly but then bounces back, it is ripe. If the indentation remains, it is overripe and the insides will be mushy. If there is no give, the eggplant was picked too early. Also make sure an eggplant is o’t dry inside, knock on it with your knuckles. If you hear a hollow sound, do not buy it.
Eggplants are very perishable and become bitter with age. They should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within a day or two of purchase. To store in the refrigerator, place in a plastic bag. If you plan to cook it the same day you buy it, leave it out at room temperature. Eggplant is not suitable for drying or canning. Freezing is the best method for home preservation.
When young, the skin of most eggplants are edible; older eggplants should be peeled. Since the flesh discolors rapidly, an eggplant should be cut just before using.
Eggplant Recipes – Recipes Using Eggplant:
Melanzane d’Aldo – Aldo’s Eggplant
Even people who think they do not like eggplant, like this dish. It makes a great side dish for a picnic or a meal served on the patio.”
A very easy and delicious way to prepare and serve eggplant.
Roasted Eggplant with Marinara Sauce
This is a very tasty eggplant dish that even non-eggplant eaters seem to enjoy!
Thai Spiced Pork
It’s very hard to describe the wonderful taste of this dish. Try it – you’ll like it.
Zucchini, Eggplant, and Green Beans with Tomatoes
What a delightful and healthy dish this is, with a bit of Turkish flair, very colorful, and a good way to use the bounty from your garden.
Eggplants: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
Long and thin or round and fat, eggplants range from egg- to melon-sized and come in a rainbow of colors, including purple, pink, white, orange, and green. They’re used in hors d’oeuvres, main courses, grilled dishes, and pickled condiments.
Eggplants are attractive, tender herbaceous perennials normally grown as annuals. Their purple flowers and large, purple-tinged leaves combine with colorful fruit to make them a stunning addition for a vegetable or flower garden. Eggplants are a warm-weather crop, thriving in heat and humidity that makes other crops wilt. It’s best to grow eggplants in a part of the garden where you haven’t grown related crops, including tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, within the last 3 or 4 years. Many pests of eggplants are pests of these related plants too.
Choosing a site to grow eggplants
Select a site with full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. repare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.
Start plants indoors in flats or peat pots about 2 months before the soil warms up in your region, or buy nursery transplants just before planting. Cover planting beds with black plastic to warm heavy clay soils. Set out the transplants when all spring frost danger is past, spacing plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
Add an organic mulch to retain moisture and control weeds after the soil has completely warmed up, about 1 month after setting out transplants. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Contact your local County Extension office for controls of common eggplant pests such as flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and tomato hornworms.
How to harvest eggplants
Most eggplants can be harvested when they are 4 to 5 inches long. The skin should be shiny; dull skin is a sign that the eggplant is overripe. Use a sharp knife and cut the eggplant from the plant, leaving at least 1 inch of stem attached to the fruit.
How to Prune Eggplant
What Are the Benefits of Pruning Eggplant?
Although some gardeners choose not to prune their eggplants, there are many benefits to pruning your plants on a monthly basis. When you prune back your eggplants during the growing season, especially when they seem to be lagging, you’ll be rewarded with the following benefits:
- Increases the air circulation through the stems and leaves, preventing the growth of bacteria, mold and fungus
- Helps the leaves dry faster after watering and rain, preventing the spread of disease from excess moisture
- Makes it easier to see leaf-eating pests that usually hide in the leaves
- Increases fruit production
- Produces healthier fruit by directing more energy to its development
- Faster ripening of the fruit, which is helpful in cooler climates with short growing seasons.
What Tools Are Needed for Pruning Eggplant?
When you’re ready to prune your eggplants, all you need is a sharp pair of garden shears or scissors. Before pruning, wash your shears in disinfectant, such as hot water and bleach to eliminate any bacteria or fungus from previous use.
What Are the Steps for Pruning Eggplants?
Pruning eggplants is a simple procedure. To prune your eggplants correctly, follow these five steps:
- Leave the two primary stems alone, and the stem below them, leaving a total of three stems.
- Cut all other stems off the plant, holding the shears flush with the main stem.
- Trim the suckers by placing your garden shears against the main stem, clipping off the sucker, or pinch them with your fingers if they’re small.
- Gently lift the foliage, and clip off any old, yellow leaves from the bottom of the eggplant.
After you prune your eggplants, remove all the clippings, discarding them in an area away from your garden. This prevents any bacteria, fungus, disease or pests from spreading to the other plants. Disinfect your shears when you’re all done to remove any harmful residue.
How to Trim Eggplant
The eggplant shrub (Solanum melongena) thrives as a perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10, but it’s typically raised as an annual vegetable. This plant does best in well-drained soil in full sun and is prized for its smooth, dark, glossy fruit. Pruning and trimming your eggplant increases the plant’s overall health and also ensures the biggest, juiciest fruit.
Disinfecting the Pruning Tools
Eggplant stems are thick, hard and spiny. To trim the plant, you’ll need a sharp pair of pruning shears or a sharp knife. Before pruning, disinfect the tools. This minimizes the risks of spreading various plant diseases.
Simply soak your garden tools for five minutes in a homemade disinfectant solution made from one of the following recipes:
- 1 part pine oil-based cleaner and 3 parts fresh water
- Equal parts rubbing alcohol and fresh water
- 1 part household bleach and 3 parts fresh water
After soaking the knife or pruning shears, rinse the tools under running water and allow them to air dry before cutting the eggplant shrub.
Pruning the Eggplant’s Branches and Foliage
Regular pruning keeps the eggplant looking tidy while also improving plant health, vigor and resistance to disease.
Pull on a pair of garden gloves. This protects you while handling sharp garden tools and also shields your hand when handling the spiny eggplant stems.
Cut off sucker branches as soon as they appear on the plant. Suckers are any stems that sprout from around the bottom main base of the eggplant shrub. If they’re not removed, the suckers will compete with the main stems for the plant’s energy, resulting in an overall weaker plant.
Inspect the eggplant’s main stalk. You’ll notice that the main stalk divides into two main stems with lateral side branches growing from above and below the main stem division.
Cut off any lateral, side branches other than the two main stems and one side branch below where the main stalk divides into two. This keeps the eggplant shrub strong and compact. Continue to observe the eggplant and remove new side stems that may begin to grow.
Trim the bottom leaves off of the eggplant as they slowly wilt, turn yellow and become brittle. This enhances air circulation and minimizes the risks of plant disease.
Thinning out the Eggplant Fruit
When it comes to the fruit on your eggplant shrub, more is not necessarily better. For larger, more plump eggplant fruit, thin the fruit out after the plant flowers and juvenile fruit appear. Using a knife or pruning shears, snip off most of the fruit and only leave one fruit per branch. This allows the plant to invest all of its energy into a select few fruit, resulting in a bigger, more flavorful harvest.