Growing your own eggplants has two rewards: the shiny purple fruit is
attractive, and homegrown eggplants generally have a richer, mellower
flavor than the ones you can buy at the market. Eggplants are
especially delicious when harvested young–you should pick the fruit
when it is two-thirds full size. You’ve waited too long if fruit
loses its gloss, becomes soft, or develops large seed. frost, sow seed
in flats filled with potting mix or in small containers such as milk
cartons cut in half with drainage holes poked in the bottom. Once
seedlings pop up, keep in a bright area. About 10 days before planting,
acclimate them to outdoor living by placing them in a protected spot
away from wind and hot sun.
If you buy started eggplants from the nursery, don’t delay
planting; they need a long growing season to mature. Seed packets say
65 to 75 days, but plants may take longer if weather is cool.
You can choose one of the traditional oval or round varieties such
as ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Burpee Hybrid’, or ‘Early
Beauty’. A fairly recent introduction is ‘Dusky’;
it’s a good choice for areas with foggy or cool summers because it
matures about two weeks sooner than other varieties. Some eggplant connoisseurs feel that the slender Japanese Long’ variety has the
most tender skin and most delicate flavor.
Eggplants thrive in hot sun and prefer rich soil with excellent
drainage. They do particularly well in raised beds. Provide moderate
amounts of water and feed several times during the growing season.