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eggplant

Solanum melongena. Solanaceae
summer

In Our Garden


Eggplant, or aubergine as it is called in France, is a vegetable long prized for its beauty as well as its unique taste and texture. Eggplants grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

imperial black beauty
Solanum melongena

Introduced around 1910, this popular variety yields 5-7" fruits per plant. 1-3 pound purplish-black, glossy fruits have great flavor and hold up well after being picked. Rounded oval fruits are smooth to slightly pleated. Best started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date and transplanted into rows 18-30 in. apart in the garden when the soil is warm. Needs warm conditions day and night to germinate, grow and fruit well. Fertilize with mature compost. Harvest fruit at their peak of size and color.

rosa bianca
Solanum melongena
22-26 in plant height, 5-7 in x 4-6 in fruit
Tender Annual
Heirloom

A gorgeous white and pink blushed, Italian variety with a delicate, mild flavor, creamy consistency, and no bitterness. Considered one of the best by gourmet chefs. 5-7" long, 4-6" diameter.

snowy eggplant
Solanum melongena
Tender annual

Non-bitter fruit enjoyed in a long, uniform 8-10" sharp-white fruit. Earlier to bear fruit than others and will enhance any collection of eggplant when displayed with others of varying colors.

Vittoria eggplant
Solanum melongena
30-36 in. Tender Annual

Gorgeous, purple-black, cylindrical fruits are great for slicing and pan-frying. Mild flavor and firm texture.

In History

During the 16th century Spaniards knew eggplants as the “apple of love.”

Cultivation

Growing Tips:
Plant and handle eggplant in the same way as tomatoes although eggplant is slightly more sensitive to cold. Warm to hot weather throughout the season is necessary for good production.

Seeds germinate quickly at 70 to 90 F, and plants should be grown for 8 to 9 weeks before setting them out. Cold temperatures will stop plant and root growth, reducing plant vigor and yields. Using hot caps or row covers protects plants from cold conditions.

Though eggplants do well in hot weather, they must have well-drained soil and do not thrive in very humid areas.

Harvesting Tips:
Pick fruits when they are about 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Test for maturity by pressing with the thumb. If the flesh springs back, the fruit is green; if it does not and an indentation remains, the fruit is mature. Harvest when the fruit is about halfway between these stages. Mature fruit should not be left on the plant because they will reduce overall productivity. Use a knife or pruning shears to cut the fruit from the plants.

Why It's Good for You

Known for its beautiful skin, eggplant is rich in various pigments with potential health benefits. Nasunin is a pigment that studies show may protect brain cell membranes from oxidative damage, and all for only 27 calories in one cup cooked.

Let's Eat

How to Prepare:
When cutting an eggplant, use a stainless steel knife as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. Wash the eggplant first and then cut off the ends.

 

Pest Management


A variety of pests can upset your eggplant crops.
  • Aphids
    Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with long, slender mouth parts that they use to pierce stems, leaves, and other tender plant parts and suck out plant fluids. Almost every plant has one or more aphid species that occasionally feeds on it. Many aphid species are difficult to distinguish; however, identification to species is not necessary to control them in most situations.
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  • Armyworms
    Armyworm larvae feed in groups, which distinguishes them from other vegetable pests such as corn earworms and loopers. Markings on newly hatched armyworms are usually hard to distinguish from those of other caterpillars; older larvae have distinct lengthwise stripes. The surface of the armyworm skin is smooth.
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  • Corn earworms
    The color of this species varies and is not reliable for identification. Older larvae have distinct stripes along sides and many short, whiskerlike spines over the body surface.
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  • Cucumber beetles
    Adult beetles are shiny with black heads, long antennae, and about 0.25 inch long. Larvae are whitish and slender with three pairs of short legs; the head and tip of the abdomen are darker. Adults may be striped or spotted, depending upon species.
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  • Cutworms
    Cutworms are dull brown caterpillars that curl into a C-shape when disturbed. Normally they are found on or just below the soil surface or on lower parts of plants and are commonly active at night. They are smooth skinned and have various markings.
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  • Earwigs
    Earwigs are among the most readily recognized insect pests in home gardens. Although they can devastate seedling vegetables or annual flowers and often seriously damage maturing soft fruit or corn silks, they also have a beneficial role in the landscape and have been shown to be important predators of aphids. Although several species occur, the most common in California gardens is the European earwig, Forficula auricularia, which was accidentally introduced into North America from Europe in the early 1900s. The striped earwig, Labidura riparia, occurs in southern California and can annoy residents when it is attracted to lights. It has a very disagreeable odor when crushed. However, the striped earwig does not damage plants.
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  • Flea beetles
    Flea beetles are small, shiny beetles with black legs enlarged for jumping.
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  • Hornworms
    Hornworms of all sizes have a distinctive horn at the rear end. Mature caterpillars are very large -- up to 4 inches long.
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  • Lygus bugs
    Adult lygus bugs are green, straw yellow, or brown with a conspicuous yellow or pale green triangle on their backs. Nymphs are light green.
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  • Nematodes
    Nematodes are microscopic, eel-like roundworms. The most troublesome species in the garden are those that live and feed within plant roots most of their lives and those that live freely in the soil and feed on plant roots. Although there are many different species of root-feeding nematodes in California, the most important in gardens are the root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne species). Root knot nematodes attack a wide range of plants, including many common vegetables, fruit trees, and ornamentals. They are difficult to control and can be spread easily from garden to garden in soil (for example, on tools, boots, etc.) and plant parts. A number of other nematode species may also damage home garden and landscape plants, including the citrus nematode (Tylenchulus semipenetrans), the ring nematode (Criconemoides xenoplax), root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus spp.), the stem and bulb nematode (Ditylenchus dipsaci), the sugarbeet cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii), and others. Table 1 lists some common garden plant species and their nematode pests.
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  • Omnivorous leafroller
    Omnivorous leafroller caterpillars feed within nests they build by tying leaves or leaves and fruit together with silk webbing. Mature larvae ae green to cream colored but so translucent that you can see the main blood vessel running down their backs. Their head and the thoracic shield just below the head is brown.
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  • Snails and Slugs
    Snails and slugs are among the most bothersome pests in many garden and landscape situations. The brown garden snail (Helix aspersa) is the most common snail causing problems in California gardens; it was introduced from France during the 1850s for use as food.
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  • Spider mites
    Mites are common pests in landscapes and gardens and can be found feeding on many fruit trees, vines, berries, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Although related to insects, mites are not insects but members of the arachnid class along with spiders and ticks. The spider mites, also called webspinning mites, are the most common mite pests and among the most ubiquitous of all pests in the garden and farm.
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  • Spittlebugs
    Adult spittlebugs are inconspicuous, often greenish or brownish insects, about 0.25 inch long. Immature spittlebugs are recognized by the frothy white mass that nymphs surround themselves with on plant tissue where they feed.
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  • Thrips
    Thrips, order Thysanoptera, are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings. They feed by puncturing their host and sucking out the cell contents. Certain thrips species are beneficial predators that feed only on mites and other insects. Beneficial species include black hunter thrips and the sixspotted thrips. Pest species (often in the family Thripidae) are plant feeders that scar leaf, flower, or fruit surfaces or distort plant parts. Other species of thrips feed on fungal spores and pollen and are innocuous.
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  • Whiteflies
    Whiteflies are tiny, sap-sucking insects that are frequently abundant in vegetable and ornamental plantings. They excrete sticky honeydew and cause yellowing or death of leaves. Outbreaks often occur when the natural biological control is disrupted. Management is difficult.
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