Growing eggplant has been cultivated for many centuries in Asiatic countries.
During the Middle Ages eggplant was grown in Europe as an ornamental plant.
Today eggplant is widely use as food and enjoyed in many dishes as a meat replacement because of its texture.
I first tasted eggplant in a dip in a Mediterranean restaurant and fell in love. I liked eggplant prepared this way because it was not heavy. It was a nice appetizer spread on pita chips.
Also known as Baba Ghanoush it is roasted eggplant mashed and mixed with olive oil or tahini, garlic and various spices.
Making this dish alone is a great reason to start growing eggplant in your garden. Eggplant is related to the potato and needs long hot summers and consistent moisture for good growth.
Knowing how to grow eggplant in northern parts of the county makes this fruit available in most areas of the country. I think eggplant grown in your own garden is so much better. It is fresh and organic.
If you can grow sweet potatoes in your garden than you can grow eggplant. Northern gardener’s can grow eggplant as far north as Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts if plants are started indoors ahead and protection is used to extend the season.
Eggplant is a heavy feeder and needs well drained rich soil. Adding composted manure to the soil in the early spring and if needed you can add an organic fertilizer with the 5-10-5 Nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus formula can be used.
Choose your eggplant variety based on your growing season. The oriental eggplants mature sooner than larger varieties. If you order your seeds online you’ll have a wider choice in variety.
Begin starting your seeds indoors 8 weeks before you will plant them out in the garden. One or two plants will provide plenty of eggplants for the average family. If you want to freeze some for the winter months grow a couple more plants.
I like to plant a few more plants just in case a few succumb to insects or disease. If all goes well you can share with your neighbors or the local food pantry.
Use a good starting soil in cups. I use 12 oz Styrofoam because I can cut holes in them easily for drainage and I won’t disturb the roots while the plant grows. Use a marker to label the cups with the date and plant name.
Soak the eggplant seeds in warm water overnight. Plant the seeds the next morning into your prepared cups. Cove the seeds loosely with ½ inch of potting soil. Water them lightly so as not to disturb the seeds and place plastic wrap over the containers to keep the moisture in.
Eggplants need warmth to germinate. They don’t do well in cool soil so keep them in a warm area until the seeds have emerged then move them to your indoor growing area. I set them under indoor grow lights.
Usually by June the weather is warmed enough to plant the eggplants outside. I do this the same time as my tomato plants. You want your day time temperatures to be between 65 and 75 degrees F.
If you want to plant them earlier cover them with a protected covering. Plant your eggplants 2 ½ feet apart in rows that are 3 feet wide. This will give them space to spread so that the sun can get to the fruits.
Water with a compost tea at time the time you set the plants into the ground. Water the plants again in 4 weeks with a compost tea.
Add a layer of mulch around the plants to protect them from drying out. If the soil goes dry the eggplants will be set back and will not produce well.
Use tomato cages or stakes to keep the plants erect and the fruit off the ground.
Eggplant can be harvested when the fruit are 2/3 to fully ripe. Picking the fruit young will keep the plants producing. Young eggplant are tenderer and have smaller seeds.
Cut the eggplant off the plants with a knife or pruning shears to protect the stems from breaking.
In the fall the plants can handle a light frost but will die with a heavy freeze. Pick the last of the fruit before the weather freezes.
Eggplants can be store for several months on a shelf in a cool cellar or the pulp can be frozen for use in recipes during the winter.