When to pick white eggplant?

Eggplant

Eggplant is a cold-sensitive vegetable that requires a long warm season for best yields. The culture of eggplant is similar to that of bell pepper, with transplants being set in the garden after all danger of frost is past. Eggplants are slightly larger plants than peppers and are spaced slightly farther apart. Eggplant requires careful attention for a good harvest. Small-fruited, exotic-colored and ornamental varieties can be grown in containers and used for decorations.

Questions & Answers

Q. I planted my eggplants early, but they did not grow very well.

A. They probably were planted while the soil was too cold. It is better to hold the plants (but keep them growing) until the soil warms. If necessary, repot into larger containers to maintain vigor. Mulching with black plastic film can help warm the soil,, especially in northern areas. Floating row covers can help with cool, early seasons as well as bar harmful insects from succulent young plants.

Harvesting

Harvest the fruits when they are 6 to 8 inches long and still glossy. Use a knife or pruning shears rather than breaking or twisting the stems. Many eggplant varieties have small prickly thorns on the stem and calyx, so exercise caution or wear gloves when harvesting. Leave the large (usually green) calyx attached to the fruit.

When the fruits become dull or brown, they are too mature for culinary use and should be cut off and discarded. Overmature fruits are spongy and seedy and may be bitter. Even properly harvested fruits do not store well and should be eaten soon after they are harvested. Large, vigorous plants can yield as many as four to six fruits at the peak of the season.

Recommended Varieties

Large Oval Fruit

Dusky (60 days to harvest, good size, early production)

Epic (64 days, tear-drop shaped)

Black Bell (68 days, round to oval, productive)

Black Magic (72 days)

Classic (76 days, elongated oval, high quality)

Black Beauty (OP-80 days)

Burpee Hybrid (80 days)

Ghostbuster (80 days; white, slightly sweeter than purple types; 6 to 7 inch oval).

Elongated Fruit

Ichiban (70 days)

Slim Jim (OP-70 days; lavender, turning purple when peanut-sized; good in pots)

Little Fingers (OP-68 days; 6 to 8 inch, long, slim fruit in clusters).

Ornamental Fruit

Easter Egg (52 days; small white, egg-sized, shaped, turning yellow at maturity; edible ornamental)

When to Plant

Eggplant is best started from transplants. Select plants in cell packs or individual containers. It is important to get the plants off to a proper start. Do not plant too early. Transplant after the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has passed. Eggplants are more susceptible than tomato plants to injury from low temperatures and do not grow until temperatures warm.

Spacing & Depth

Space plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the row, or even closer for small fruited types. Three to six plants are usually sufficient for most families unless eggplant is a favorite vegetable, eaten often. Allow 30 to 36 inches between rows or space plants 24 inches apart in all directions in raised beds.

Care

Use starter fertilizer for transplanting. Side-dress nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are half grown and again immediately after harvest of the first fruits. Given sufficient moisture and fertility, eggplant thrives in the heat of summer. The plants tolerate dry weather after they are well established but should be irrigated during extended dry periods for continued peak production.

Common Problems

Verticillium wilt causes yellowing, wilting and death of the plants.

Flea beetles cause tiny holes in the leaves. Damage can be severe, especially on young plants, if unchecked. These beetles can be controlled by applying an insecticide.

Selection & Storage

Harvest eggplants when they are young. Size is not always an indication of maturity. To test, hold the eggplant in your palm and gently press it with your thumb. If the flesh presses in but bounces back, it is ready for harvesting. If the flesh is hard and does not give, the eggplant is immature and too young to harvest. If the thumb indentation remains, the eggplant to over mature and may be completely brown inside and bitter with large tough seeds.

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.

Eggplants bruise easily so harvest gently. Always cut the eggplant with the cap and some of the stem attached. Eggplants do not like cool temperatures so they do not store well. Harvest and use them immediately for best flavor. If you must store them, wrap them in plastic or use plastics and store for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Be careful as it will soon develop soft brown spots and become bitter. Use them while the stem and cap are still greenish and rather fresh-looking.

Nutritional Value & Health Benefits

Eggplants have a small amount of nutrients. They are naturally low in calories and unpeeled, they provide some fiber. There is also some folate and potassium.

Nutrition Facts (1 cup cooked, cubed )

Calories 27.7
Protein .82 gram
Carbohydrates 6.57 grams
Dietary Fiber 2.48 grams
Phosphorus 21.78 mg
Potassium 245.52 mg
Folate 14.26 mcg

Preparation & Serving

Cooked eggplant soaks up a lot of oil. As the air rushes out of the cells oil rushes in to take it place. Many cooks insist on salting and pressing (or just draining) the air and water out before cooking. Getting rid of the air means it will absorb less oil during cooking. Salting also reduces the water content which reduces the amount of water leeched out into the dish. If you salt prior to cooking, rinse and pat dry to prevent excessive salt in the end product. Adjust the seasoning in the recipe to compensate for the salt remaining on the eggplant.

Then there is the issue of whether or not to peel the eggplant. Peeling should depend on how the eggplant is used in the recipe. If you never peel, selection becomes extremely important. Young tender eggplant is a must as older tough skin takes longer to cook and by then the flesh is overcooked.

Eggplant can be baked, grilled, steamed, or sauteed. It is versatile and works well with tomatoes, onions, garlic and cheese. The only way eggplant is unacceptable is raw.

Home Preservation

Eggplant is not suitable for drying or canning. Freezing is the best method for home preservation.

To Freeze: Harvest before seeds become mature and when color is uniformly dark.

  1. Wash, peel if desired, and slice 1/3-inch thick. Prepare quickly, enough eggplant for one blanching at a time.
  2. Water blanch, covered for 4 minutes in one gallon boiling water containing 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled).
  3. Cool, drain and package, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Seal in zip closure freezer bags and seal and freeze.
  4. For frying — Pack the drained slices with a freezer wrap between slices. Seal and freeze.

Recipes

Herbed Baby Eggplant

This recipe is good chilled as a summer appetizer or side dish.

3 pounds small Oriental-type eggplants (4-6 ounces)
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into shreds

  1. Wash eggplant, remove caps and cut into quarters or cut in half. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

  2. Spread pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet, cut sides up.

  3. Mix garlic and oil, and drizzle over eggplants. Bake 30 minutes until the eggplants are brown and tender. Cool slightly.

  4. Rinse basil leaves. Stack leaves and roll into a scroll. Cut across into thin shreds. Set aside.

  5. Place the eggplants in a large bowl and drizzle with vinegar, add basil shreds and toss. Serves 4 to 6.

Difference between White and Purple Eggplant

Key difference: White eggplants tend to be smaller and more firmly textured. They are considered to be denser, creamier, milder, less acidic and less bitter, and to have more seeds. Purple eggplants have glossy, purple skins, and are oval and oblong in shape, and tend to be wider at the end.

The eggplant, like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and sweet potatoes, belongs to the nightshade family and thus is technically a fruit. Eggplant is officially categorized as a berry. The eggplant is native to the Indian Subcontinent and has a number of varieties, of which the large dark purple pear shaped eggplant is the most common. The eggplant got its name, as the first observed eggplant were small, round, egg-shaped and white. Other names for eggplant include aubergine, melongene, brinjal or guinea squash.

The eggplant is fleshy, has a meaty texture, and contains numerous small, soft seeds. It generally has a pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture, which becomes tender with a rich, complex flavor after cooking. The eggplant has a bitter taste as it is a close relative of the tobacco plant, and like tobacco contains nicotinoid alkaloids. However, the amount of nicotine consumed by eating eggplant is negligible. Actually, nine kilograms (20 lbs) of eggplant contain the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.

There are many varieties of eggplants. The different varieties are classified by their different size, shape, and color. Most of them are typically purple in color, but the color of some varieties can vary from white, yellow, orange, green, lavender, purple, reddish-purple and dark purple. Some have a color gradient, from white at the stem to bright pink to deep purple or even black. There are even some that have green or purple striping. The standard eggplant is the Italian or Mediterranean eggplant which is a teardrop-shaped or pear-shaped purple eggplant. There are also the Japanese eggplants: long, slender and lavender, Chinese eggplants – similar to Japanese eggplants Thai and Indian eggplants: which are available in shades of green, purple, striated green and white, and are the size of cherries.

As compared to the more common purple, white eggplants tend to be smaller and more firmly textured. They are considered to be denser, creamier, milder, less acidic and less bitter, and to have more seeds. The skin of a white eggplant is tougher than purple eggplant which needs to be peeled off before cooking. However, this also makes is better suited for baking, steaming or frying as they hold their shape better. The flesh of the white eggplants is white. They are also low in calories and contain traces of several nutrients such as potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B-complex and vitamin C. They are also only available seasonally. White eggplants are gaining in popularity, as they are now being considered as trendy to use. However, they are no where as close to popular as purple eggplants.

Purple eggplants, on the other hand, are more popular than white eggplants and are available throughout the year. They have glossy, purple skins, and are oval and oblong in shape, and tend to be wider at the end. They have sponge-like texture qualities, which allow it to easily take on flavorings. Purple eggplants tend to have thin, delicate skins, which can be easily eaten. The flesh of the purple eggplants has a greenish hue. As compared to white eggplants, purple eggplants are larger in size.

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PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstockby Jessica Walliser July 21, 2016

Eggplants are a topic I’ve covered before, but today I’d like to introduce you to a few of my favorite unconventional eggplant varieties. While large, purple eggplants are certainly wonderful additions to the garden, if you haven’t grown white eggplants before, you may want to give them a try.

In my experience, white eggplants have a slightly different texture than their purple kin, and I also love the way they look in the garden. I’m particularly fond of elongated varieties, which have perfect, snowy white fruits that hang delicately from the plants. Everyone who comes to my garden asks about them, wondering where they came from and what they taste like. They’re also a hot seller at the farmers market. Here are some varieties to try.

1. Snowy

This beauty produces elongated eggplants that are about 8 inches long at maturity. Harvest while the skin is still shiny and blemish-free. The texture is firm, and it cooks great. The plants don’t need to be staked and are well-suited for growing in the ground or in containers.

2. Casper

Many consider Casper to be the standard of white eggplants. This 6-inch-long, Japanese-type eggplant is highly productive, often producing right until frost. The flesh is mild flavored—it almost has hints of mushroom with absolutely no bitterness.

3. Japanese White Egg

This cute little teardrop-shaped eggplant is early-maturing, and each plant makes dozens of pure white, 2- to 3-inch-long fruits. We love to slice them in half and put them on the grill. The flavor is classic eggplant. This is a great variety for households with only one or two eggplant lovers—nothing will go to waste.

4. Thai White Ribbed

A funky-shaped eggplant, the fruits of Thai White Round look more like white heirloom tomatoes than eggplants. They’re flattened spheres with deep ribs. I’ve only been able to find seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I’ve only grown them once, but we enjoyed the mild flesh and unique fruits of this variety.

5. White Star

A hybrid variety with great disease resistance and good production, White Star is fairly sweet-flavored and makes an excellent harvest when picked as either baby eggplants or when the fruits reach maturity. The fully formed 7-inch-long, tear drop-shaped fruits are meaty and should be harvested before the skin starts to yellow.

6. White Comet

Another hybrid selection, this Japanese variety produces long, tapered fruits. There’s no bitterness at all and very few seeds. I find the plants themselves to be quite beautiful. The leaves are a dark green with purple ribbing and stems, and the purple flowers are striking, especially when white fruits are also present.

7. Gretel

The final white eggplant variety I’d like to introduce you to is certainly one worth growing, especially if you garden in containers. Gretel’s fruits are small and finger-shaped, and the plants are short-statured and highly productive. The fruits are bitter-free and tender; we love to grill them whole.

Give a few of these white eggplant varieties a try in your own garden and let us know what you think.

White Eggplant

Light requirements: Full sun for best yields.

Planting: Space 24 to 36 inches apart.

Soil requirements: Eggplants need well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with 3 to 5 inches of compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.2 to 6.8.

Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist throughout the growing season. Moisture is critical to prevent blossom drop and blossom end rot, and fuel developing fruits. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation.

Frost-fighting plan: A light frost damages plants (28º F to 32º F). Temperatures below 50º F stop growth and cause fruit not to set. If a surprise late spring frost comes into the forecast, protect newly planted seedlings with a frost blanket.

Common issues: Blossom end rot can develop when soil moisture is erratic. Eggplant needs heat. In cold regions, planting in black pots can help warm soil and provide necessary heat to jump-start growth. Plants drop flowers when daytime temps soar above 90º F, nights are below 50º F, or drought stresses plants. Flea beetles love eggplant leaves, but plants yield even when leaves are riddled with beetle holes. Verticillium wilt, a soil-borne fungus, can occur in some areas.

Harvesting: Pick when skin is glossy; dull fruit indicates over-ripeness. Both under-and over-ripe fruit tastes bitter. Pick white eggplants before skin turns yellow. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut eggplants, keeping a short stub of stem attached.

Storage: Store washed and dried eggplant at room temperature if using within one or two days. Otherwise, wrap in a dry paper towel and place in a perforated or loosely closed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Use within 5 to 7 days.

For more information, visit the Eggplant page in our How to Grow section.

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