Most of us think of deep purple skin and an egg-like shape when we think of eggplants, but they actually come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Based on their slow maturation rate and need for warmer weather, they are best to be planted in late spring for a late summer harvest. Although eggplant can be eaten raw, it is far more enjoyable when roasted, sauteed or stewed to tenderize the vegetable and make the flesh silky smooth. Known as the “King of Vegetables,” it remains a mainstay in many cuisines around the world, and for good reason!
Our current variety:
Little Finger Eggplant- Extremely tender asian variety with a delicate, sweet flavor and deep purple, thin skin. This variety is narrow and longer, making them perfect for roasting with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper or using in a stir-fry.
How to grow eggplant from seed:
If planting with a Seedsheet, simply follow this how to plant tutorial or watch the video below.
Water gently daily with a fine misting nozzle to ensure the soil around the seeds remains moist. Sprouts should be visible in 8 days. With the optimal soil temperature for germination being 85°F, placing near a heater or using a heat mat may necessary. After sprouting and reaching 2 inches in height, seedlings should be thinned to one plant per pod.
If planting with conventional methods, start indoors 8-12 weeks before last frost date. Seeds can be sown close together into flats and then separated and transplanted into cell trays or containers after true leaves appear. Water gently daily with a fine misting nozzle to ensure the soil around the seeds remains moist. When seedlings reach 2 inches in height, they should be thinned to one plant per cell. Move outdoors when daytime temperatures are at least 65°F and night time temperatures are above 50°F. Transplant seedlings 18-24 inches apart in rows that are 30-36 inches apart.
How to care for eggplant:
Eggplants are relatively large plants and need a decent amount of space to grow and mature properly.
After germination, optimal growing temperatures are between 55°F and 70°F.
As mentioned above, eggplant seedlings should be thinned to one plant per pod so they aren’t crowded.
Thinning: Water the soil well around the base of the seedlings and identify the largest, most mature seedling to keep. Gently grasp the remaining unwanted seedlings with your thumb and forefinger and pull from the soil. It is important to only pluck on seeding at a time, as their root systems may be intertwined and pulling multiple together may result in ripping all of the seedlings out at once, including the one you intend to keep. Check out the video below!
Watering: Eggplants benefit greatly from moisture consistency; they like damp, but not saturated soil. Not enough water can produce small, bitter fruits, whereas too much water can rot the plant or promote the development of disease or fungi. On very hot days, it may be necessary to water more than normal and conversely, on days with a lot of rain the plants may require being moved under the cover of a tarp or even inside if possible.
Pro-tip: Eggplants have the potential to tip over in blustery winds if planted in a container and bearing lots of fruit. It is advisable to attach the plant to a stake with clips or twine for support. Inserting a stake in the soil and inch away from the plant when the plant is still young will disturb the plant much less than if you were to alternatively drive the stake into the soil when it is more mature. Alternatively, small tomato cages can be used to help support mature plants.
Fertilizing: Eggplants benefit greatly from a consistent fertilizing schedule and will help them produce flavorful and bountiful fruits. Check out our blog on fertilizing for more information on what fertilizers we recommend and the proper schedules to follow to get the most out of your plants.
How to harvest and use eggplant:
Harvest eggplants when skin is glossy and a thumbprint will not leave an impression. When cut open, a ripe eggplant with have a scattering of soft seeds. However, if there are no visible seeds, the fruit is under-ripe, whereas hard, dark seeds are a sign of the fruit being over-ripe. Regular harvesting increases production of fruit.
To harvest eggplants, use a clean pair of pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut the stem, connecting the fruit to the main stalk of the plant, about one inch above the top of the fruit. Be careful as to not damage other fruits or the stalk of the plant around the fruit your are harvesting as this can introduce disease to your plant.
Rinse the fruit clean, dry thoroughly to prevent molding, and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Recipe inspiration: Eggplant is the perfect vegetable for roasting with garlic and olive oil and eaten right out of the oven, or to spice things up a little, toss the roasted fruit in a blender with tahini, lemon, garlic, and herbs for a smoky Babaganoush dip. If you are looking to put a healthier spin on a classic BLT sandwich, whip up a batch of eggplant bacon and make yourself a EBLART sandwich (Eggplant Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Roasted Tomato). Finally, if you are looking for a crowd-pleaser, you cannot go wrong with good ol’ fashioned eggplant parmesan.
Our favorite eggplant recipes: