By E. VinjeTweet
Eggplant is a member of the Solanaceae family which includes tomatoes, peppers, ground cherry and potatoes. A warm season annual, growing eggplant is relatively easy and it is one of the prettier vegetables found in the home garden. Numerous varieties are available.
Eggplant should be planted in full sun and requires ample water and fertile soil with lots of organic matter. The plants are easily injured by frost and will not do well with long periods of cool weather.
Tip: Use plastic mulches to warm the soil and increase eggplant yields.
How to Plant:
Eggplants should be treated like tomatoes, the only difference being that eggplants like it warmer. Plant them from nursery stock, or starts, after the soil has warmed in the spring. Set plants 20-24 inches apart in raised beds or double rows 20-24 inches apart. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer throughout the growing period.
Tip: After planting cover with floating row cover to keep them warm and protected from insect pests.
To harvest large eggplants, remove most of the side shoots and select two or three fruits to develop on one plant. For smaller fruits, allow the plants to develop naturally. For best flavor, harvest while fruit is young and shiny. Cut fruits from the plants with an inch of stem attached. Allow 60-100 days to reach maturity from transplanting.
Insects and Diseases:
Eggplants are susceptible to flower drop and misshapen fruit due to extreme temperatures, flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, aphids, hornworms, Verticillium and Fusarium wilts.
Tip: Grow eggplants in containers and sterilized potting soil to eliminate some soil-borne plant diseases.
Seed Saving Instructions:
To save eggplant seed, let the fruits grow far past the edible stage. Seed saved from immature, or ready to eat plants, will not be viable. Grate or blend the bottom portion of the eggplant, which contains the greatest seed density, using a hand grater or food processor. The small seeds are firm and slippery, so there is very little damage. Put all of the gratings into a bowl and fill with water. Squeeze the gratings vigorously. The good seeds will separate out and sink to the bottom. Allow seed to dry.