The best eggplants? Pick them young Essay

Growing your own eggplants has two rewards: the shiny purple fruit isattractive, and homegrown eggplants generally have a richer, mellowerflavor than the ones you can buy at the market. Eggplants areespecially delicious when harvested young–you should pick the fruitwhen it is two-thirds full size. You’ve waited too long if fruitloses its gloss, becomes soft, or develops large seed. frost, sow seedin flats filled with potting mix or in small containers such as milkcartons cut in half with drainage holes poked in the bottom.

Onceseedlings pop up, keep in a bright area. About 10 days before planting,acclimate them to outdoor living by placing them in a protected spotaway from wind and hot sun. If you buy started eggplants from the nursery, don’t delayplanting; they need a long growing season to mature. Seed packets say65 to 75 days, but plants may take longer if weather is cool.

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You can choose one of the traditional oval or round varieties suchas ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Burpee Hybrid’, or ‘EarlyBeauty’. A fairly recent introduction is ‘Dusky’;it’s a good choice for areas with foggy or cool summers because itmatures about two weeks sooner than other varieties. Some eggplant connoisseurs feel that the slender Japanese Long’ variety has themost tender skin and most delicate flavor. Eggplants thrive in hot sun and prefer rich soil with excellentdrainage. They do particularly well in raised beds.

Provide moderateamounts of water and feed several times during the growing season.

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