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Eggplant - Solanum melongena - Perennial

Eggplant is a native of India but is widely grown in the warmer regions of both hemispheres, especially in the West Indies and southern United States.

Eggplant (also known as guinea squash) is a very tender vegetable that requires a long, warm season for best yields. The culture of eggplant is similar to that of tomatoes, but eggplants are spaced closer together than tomato plants and are not staked. Eggplant require careful attention for a good harvest. Small-fruited and ornamental varieties can be grown in containers, or for decorative purposes.


Varieties


Planting

Eggplants are best started by transplanting, and it is important to get the plant off to a proper start. Select plants that have soil with the roots. 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.

Space plants 18 to 20 inches apart in the row. Three to six plants are usually sufficient for most families. Allow 30 to 36 inches between rows.

Use a starter fertilizer solution when transplanting. Sidedress nitrogen when the plants are half grown and again immediately after harvest of the first fruits. The plants will tolerate dry weather after they are well established, but you should irrigate during extended dry periods. Eggplant thrives during the heat of summer.


Harvesting

Days to maturity: 100-150 days from seed; 70-85 days from transplants

Harvest the fruits when they are 6 to 8 inches long and glossy. Fruit should be large, shiny, and a uniformly deep purple color. When the side of the fruit is pressed slightly with thumbnail and an indentation remains, the fruit is ripe. Long, slender, Japanese eggplant may be ready to harvest from finger or hotdog size. If fruit is a dull color and has brown seeds, it is too ripe and should be discarded. Use a knife or pruning shears rather than breaking or twisting the stems. Leave the large, usually green, calyx attached to the fruit.

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

Yields: (per 10 feet of row) 20 pounds

Amount per person: 12 lbs.

Storage: cool (45F-50F), moist (90% RH) conditions; 1 week

Preservation: freeze, pickle


Problems

Verticillium wilt causes yellowing, wilting, and death of the plants. Flea beetles cause tiny holes in the leaves, and damage can be severe if unchecked. These beetles can be controlled by applying an insecticide.

Diseases: Verticillium wilt

Insects: flea beetles, aphids, lace bugs, Colorado potato beetle, red spider mites


Questions and Answers

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

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. Eggplant should be planted one week later than tomatoes. Mulching with black plastic film can help warm the soil.

The fruit on my eggplant was delicious during its early production. Now, the fruit we harvest is bitter and has brown areas on it.

The bitter fruit is caused by plant stress and subsequent slow growth stimulated by hot, dry weather. The brown area is caused by sun scalding. If the scalding is not too severe, it can be removed and the eggplant eaten.

What causes eggplant fruit to become misshapen and odd colored?

Poor-quality eggplant fruit are generally associated with low moisture and high temperature conditions. Overmature eggplant fruit will become dull-colored and often develop a bronze appearance. For maximum production, remove the eggplant fruit before they are fully mature to allow additional fruit to develop.

Recently one of my eggplants died within a few days. I found a white fungal mat at the base of the plant.What caused this?

This is southern blight, a soilborne disease which can be controlled by crop rotation and prompt removal of dead plant material.

The fruit of my eggplant develops a rotted area which extends deep into the fruit.

This is probably Alternaria fruit rot but could be caused by several things. This is not to be confused with Phomopsis fruit rot which produces a dish-shaped spot which turns brown and has ring-like structures around it. Alternaria fruit rot is controlled with the normal fungicide spray program.

My eggplants have quit producing. The upper leaves are turning yellow and falling off.

These are symptoms of spider mites. Check the underside of the leaves for small red mites.


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This page was last updated on November 16, 2002