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Eggplant Gardening

Eggplant Gardening

Eggplant gardening growing black beauty

Eggplant, Solanum melongena, is a perennial from the nightshade family, Solanaceae, and is cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates throughout the world. It comes from the same family as potatoes, tomatoes, and several other poisonous nightshades. Eggplant is native to Southeast Asia and a staple in Mediterranean cuisine since ancient times. It’s typically grown as an annual and can reach a height of 1.5 m, giving large, slightly lobed leaves and purple flowers. The fruit is a large, egg-shaped deep purple berry with smooth skin and several small seeds. Though the fruit, commonly consumed as a vegetable, is typically purple, you can also find it in other colors.

Types & Varieties of Eggplant

Other than the large, oblong, purple eggplants you find in grocery stores, there are several other varieties too. They come in unique shapes and colors. Besides the deep purple color that you’re familiar with, red, pink, yellowish, and white eggplants also exist.

Common Varieties of Eggplant:

Black BeautyThe variety matures in 72 to 85 days, producing large, oval fruits with purplish-black skin that hold color and texture well after being harvested. It’s an heirloom variety that grows up to 24 to 30 inches tall, bearing 4 to 6 fruits per plant.

Little Fingers – Maturing in as little as 68 days, this variety bears slim, 4 to 6 inches long fruits with glossy dark purple skin and a sweet, delicate flavor.

Easter Egg – Maturing in 52 to 65 days, it bears small, white fruits in the shape and size of an egg.

Hansel – Harvested in about 55 days, this cultivar produces long, thin purple fruits that appear in clusters on the branches. It’s best picked when the fruits are just about 3 inches long, though they can grow up to 10 inches long when fully mature.

For a self-sufficient garden, grow 1 to 2 eggplant plants per person, spacing them 24 to 30 inches apart in rows that are at least 3 feet apart.

Temperature and Timing for Growing Eggplant

Eggplant is a warm-weather crop and requires at least 5 months of warm temperatures for proper fruit development. The ideal temperatures to grow eggplant lie between 70 and 85°F. If the weather is cooler, the growth will slow down. They’re typically grown as a spring crop, so they can grow through the warm summers.

Sun Exposure and Soil Requirements

Eggplant grows best in full sun. Make sure they receive at least 6 hours of undisturbed sunlight each day. If you have a spot that receives more sunlight, that’s even better.

Sandy loam or loam soil is best for eggplant. Make sure it’s well-drained, rich in organic matter, and has a pH between 5.8 and 6.5 for optimal growth.

How to Plant Eggplant

Eggplant gardening starts with planting the seeds indoors 8 to 9 weeks before the last spring frost. Start the seeds in seedling trays or peat pots filled with a good seed starting mix. Set the seeds ¼ inch deep in the soil and spray the soil with water to moisten it. Place the pots over a heating mat, making sure the temperature is between 75 to 85°F for optimal germination.

eggplant flowers

Seedlings will sprout in a week or two. As soon as you see sprouting, place the pot at a window that receives plenty of sunlight. Thin the seedlings to 2 to 3 inches apart once they have at least two sets of leaves.

Wait until after the last frost of the spring to transplant the seedlings outdoors. Outdoor temperatures should be consistently above 50°F when you plan on transplanting the seedlings into the garden. Amend the garden soil with lots of organic matter before planting the seedlings.

Harden off the seedlings in about a week before you set them in the garden bed permanently. If you want to skip starting the seeds indoors, you can purchase 6 to 8-weeks old transplants from the nursery right before planting in the garden.

Space the transplants 24 to 30 inches apart in rows spaced 3-feet apart. Stake the plants at the time of planting, so the plants have support as they grow and the soil isn’t disturbed during the growing season.

Once transplanted in the garden, make sure they receive consistent moisture, offering about an inch of watering per week, including rainfall. Mulch the soil to keep the weeds down and retain soil moisture.

Fertilize twice during the growing season using a balanced formula. Sidedress the plants with fertilizer once when the fruits are about an inch in diameter and a second time two weeks later.


After a successful eggplant gardening season, you can look forward to an impressive harvest. Here’s how to pick eggplant:

  • Depending on the variety, eggplant takes about 65 to 80 days to reach maturity after transplanting. Depending on the climate you live in, your eggplant can come to harvest anywhere between July to September. Begin harvesting eggplant when the fruits reach full size and pressing firmly produces a thumbprint that bounces back quickly. Under-ripe eggplants are too hard to take a thumbprint, and overripe ones are so soft that a thumbprint leaves a permanent bruise.
  • Eggplant is best harvested while the fruits are still young. Smaller fruits have a tender flavor and texture. Also, picking the fruits timely promotes the development of new fruits, and your plants will be more productive.
  • To pick eggplant, cut it off the stem with shears or scissors, leaving about an inch of the stem attached. Pulling them off by hand may damage the plant.


Eggplant doesn’t store well. It’s best eaten fresh. If you can’t use freshly picked eggplant right away, store it in the fridge and use it within a week. Store it without washing or cutting since it quickly spoils if the flesh is exposed.

Eggplant can be pickled if you want to store it for longer. Besides pickling, there aren’t many preservation techniques that will work well for eggplant.

At our home my wife will cut and fry excess eggplant and freeze for future use in eggplant parmesan or rollatini recipes. The fried pieces do store well for several months.

Pests and Diseases


  • Aphids are tiny soft-bodied insects, often found on the underside of the leaves and stems of the plant. As they feed on the plants, they secrete a sticky substance called honeydew that promotes the growth of dark, sooty mold on the plants, inhibiting their ability to photosynthesize. Hose them off with a strong spray of water, or introduce beneficial insects, such as lacewings and ladybugs, that feed on aphids. Alternatively, you can spray insecticidal soap on the infested plants. 
  • Flea Beetles are a common problem eggplant growers experience, these happen to be the bane of my garden life. They feed on the leaves, leaving small holes on the surface. Their larvae grow in the soil and certain species will eat roots. Established plants can generally tolerate a fair amount of damage by flea beetles without showing any effect on yield, but seedlings are more susceptible to damage. Place row covers over them until they are bigger.
  • Colorado potato beetles feed on the leaves of eggplant, causing significant defoliation and loss of yield if the population builds. You can handpick the adults and larvae and destroy them with soapy water. Chemical control may be necessary for severe infestations.


  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that can affect eggplant. It appears as powdery, white spots on the leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. The leaves will turn yellow and twisted and eventually drop. You can prevent the problem by planting resistant varieties and ensuring adequate spacing to allow ample air circulation between the plants.
  • Blossom end rot is a common disease with eggplant gardening, just as it is with tomatoes. It affects ripe fruits and appears as dark sunken spots on the blossom ends of the fruits. Avoid over-fertilizing and over-watering to prevent the problem.
  • Verticillium wilt kills more eggplants than any other disease. Ensure good drainage and warm soil to discourage this soilborne fungus, which causes plants to wilt and eventually collapse, often with yellowing between the leaf veins.
  • Tobacco Mosaic Virus – Young growth is malformed and leaves are mottled with yellow. To prevent it, wash hands after handling tobacco before touching plants. Control aphids, which spread the disease.

Saving Eggplant Seeds

Heirloom eggplants are open pollinating, so saving seeds is easy. Choose over-ripe fruit from strong plants (take seeds from as least 2 different plant). To remove the ripe seeds, cut off the bottom end of the fruit and pick out the seeds. Dry the seeds at room temperature for about two weeks. Under good storage conditions, eggplant seeds will remain viable for five years.

That’s all there is to eggplant gardening. Hope you have a successful eggplant gardening season and enjoy picking loads of homegrown eggplant for your recipes.

Spicy Eggplant and Cauliflower

Spicy Eggplant and Cauliflower with Basil

I am a sucker for curry so whenever given a chance I will try it. Since eggplant is typically productive for us this is a good recipe. Spicy eggplant and cauliflower with basil can be put into Tupperware and frozen for future use – go-preppers-go!!


1 ½ cups rice
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
3 small (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut lengthwise into ½” wedges – use a mandolin if you have to maintain consistency
1/2 head cauliflower (about 1 pound), broken into florets
1 15 ounce can chickpeas – I use regular garden peas. They have 1/5 the amount of carbs!!
2 cups bean sprouts
½ cup fresh basil leaves – try to “chiffonade” the leaves for that extra effect


Heat oven to 450 F.

In a large saucepan, combine the rice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 2 ¼ cups water and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer on low until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, whisk together the garlic, ginger, oil, curry paste, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, and ½ cup water. Toss with the eggplants and cauliflower.

Transfer to a roasting pan in a single layer. Roast until tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding the chickpeas during the last 5 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from oven and toss with the bean sprouts and basil. Pour the spicy eggplant and cauliflower over and serve.

Look at other eggplant recipes https://traderscreek.com/recipes/recipe-index/

Curried Eggplant with Tomatoes

Curried Eggplant with Tomatoes and Basil


1 cup white rice
salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch pieces – leave on skin
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 15 ounce can chickpeas – frankly green peas work as well and I like better. All up to the cook
1/2 cup fresh basil


In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine the rice, 1 ½ cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Stir the rice once, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 4 to 6 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, eggplant, curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and season with black pepper. Cook, stirring for about 2 minutes.

Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until eggplant is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. If you want you can substitute vegetable broth or chicken stock for the water.

Stir in the chickpeas (peas) and cook just until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from heat and stir in the basil. Spoon the curried eggplant with tomatoes and basil over the rice. This recipe makes a great vegetarian meal or a hearty side dish that will complement any meat.

Look at other eggplant recipes https://traderscreek.com/recipes/recipe-index/

Grilled Eggplant Salad Recipe

Grilled Eggplant Salad

This creates a nice eggplant side dish for summer meals. The bonus is you grill it. Cook your meat and veggie at the same time. The vinegar dressing just puts the grilled eggplant salad over the top.


2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for the grill
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Leave on the skin
salt and black pepper – to your taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro


Heat your grill to medium-high.

In a small bowl, combine the oil and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Brush on the eggplant slices and season with salt and pepper.

Oil grill. Grill the eggplant over the flame of the grill until it is tender and slightly charred, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

In a second small bowl, combine the vinegar, ginger, jalapeño, cilantro, and remaining soy sauce. Drizzle over eggplant before serving.

Grilled eggplant salad pairs well with fish and all meats. Try it with lamb.

Look at other eggplant recipes https://traderscreek.com/recipes/recipe-index/

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

We came upon this Eggplant Parmesan recipe as we started our veggie gardens many years ago. Over the years our garden has produced fantastic amounts of eggplant. The first year we ate a lot of eggplant parmesan. My wife has a lot of practice and I consider her’s some of the best. After-all running at about 35 lbs. – 50 lbs. each year you get a bunch of practice. It’s all yours to decide.


2 large eggplant
Regular cooking oil
2 eggs, beaten in a flat bottom dish – to dip cut eggplant in
4 cups plain bread crumbs – to dip cut eggplant in
6 cups tomato sauce – homemade or store. According to my wife if using store bought, use what you like.  Make sure there is some spice in the sauce if using homemade. Do not use plain stewed tomatoes.
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil


Peel the skin off the 2 eggplant. Using a mandolin slicer cut slices about ¼ inch thick. Don’t cut lengthwise cut holding the eggplant up.

Heat 1 or 2 large skillets and liberally coat the bottom with a good oil – not olive oil.

When the oil is hot, take the sliced eggplant and first dip into the egg then the bread crumbs. Place the breaded pieces into the skillets and cook until the bottoms are brown. Flip over and finish cooking the second side. When cooked take out the eggplant from the skillet and place on paper towels to drain oil and cool. For fun, take a cooked piece sprinkle some salt on it and eat. If tender, you cooked it enough. Cook all pieces – don’t eat too much!!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 9×13 inch baking dish spread spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with the cheeses.

Sprinkle basil on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown.

Look at other eggplant recipes https://traderscreek.com/recipes/recipe-index/

Ratatouille Recipe

Ratatouille Recipe

We came upon this ratatouille recipe as we attempted to find ways to use the produce from our garden. Over the years our garden has produced fantastic amounts of eggplant. The first year we ate a lot of eggplant parmesan. Over time we needed to add new recipes to avoid the monotony of just one dish. After-all running at about 35 lbs. – 50 lbs. each year you need some diversity. Ratatouille can be anything – a veggie side dish, appetizer or even a sauce in a hearty pasta dish. It’s all yours to decide.


28 ounces whole stewed-peeled tomatoes
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large eggplant, skinned, cut into 1-inch pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 large yellow onions, diced large
1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
2 bell peppers, seeded and diced large
2 large zucchini, diced large
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram or oregano leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place tomatoes and juices on a rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to break tomatoes into 3/4-inch pieces. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and bake until thickened, 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

In a colander, toss eggplant with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let sit 20 minutes, then squeeze out excess liquid. In a large pot, heat 4 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until onions and garlic are soft, 5 minutes more. Add peppers and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, 4 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

Add tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bay leaf, and marjoram to pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook at a gentle simmer until vegetables are tender but not mushy, 15 minutes. Season to taste with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Fantastic side dish to strong meats, lamb, can be used as a base sauce with pasta or just spoon onto toast and enjoy

Look at other eggplant recipes https://traderscreek.com/recipes/recipe-index/