Eggplant Growing and Gardening

Eggplant_growing

Eggplant Gardening

The Garden:

I planted what has come to be a great eggplant, Burpee Black Beauty organic eggplant. In all my years of gardening I have yet to grow an eggplant that was so sweet. Older fruits were not at all tough or stringy. I absolutely will grow these again and anyone who asks I would suggest Burpee Black Beauty. The fact that Burpee developed the plant as organic is all the more!! I shy away from hybrids and absolutely hate GMO.

organic_eggplant

Eggplant grown for 2015

Seeds were started in March in the basement. 9 plants were eventually grown. In early May I put them into the greenhouse to harden up and complete phase 1 growing. I planted late – 2nd week of June. I cut the bottoms out of large plastic cups and placed around the plant bases to discourage cut worms (which each year I fight with). The plants were placed in 3 rows of 3 plants each. Plants were spaced 2 feet apart in rows 2 feet apart. The plants grow tall, 3 – 3 ½ feet and spread out so they need to space.

2015 proved to be tough early on. The Northeast was wet and cool. The eggplant plants really did not start growing until July. July warmed up but was dry. The plants eventually got their “legs” and by August all was good. As of October 10, 2015, no frost yet, we harvested 32 lbs. with maybe another 8 lbs. to go. Our local supermarket sells eggplants for $2.50/lbs. With that said, we have harvested $80.00 in eggplant this year and have $12.00 to go!! Not too bad from 9 plants.

Our 3 children had fun with the eggplants grown. All are adults and living on their own. While home they like to “shop” in the garden. All took eggplant home and all said they loved them. They tend to be tough critics so I take their happiness as “thumbs up” for Burpee seeds.

What is an Eggplant:

Eggplant_growing

Eggplant fruit growing

Eggplant is a vegetable long prized for its unique taste and texture. Eggplants belong to the plant family commonly known as nightshades, and are related to the tomato, bell pepper and potato. Eggplants grow in a manner much like tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height.

One of the most popular varieties of eggplant in North America looks like a pear-shaped egg, a characteristic from which its name is derived. The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream colored and spongy in consistency. Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.

In addition to this variety, eggplant is also available in a cornucopia of other colors including lavender, jade green, orange, and yellow-white, as well as in sizes and shapes that range from that of a small tomato to a large zucchini.

Eggplant History

The ancient ancestors of eggplant grew wild in India and were first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C. Eggplant was introduced to Africa before the Middle Ages and then into Italy, the country with which it has long been associated, in the 14th century. It subsequently spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and, centuries later, was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers. Today, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China and Japan are the leading growers of eggplant.

Select and Store your Eggplant

Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, and their color, whether it be purple, white or green, should be vivid. They should be free of discoloration, scars, and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.

Eggplant_flower

Eggplant flowers

The stem and cap, on either end of the eggplant, should be bright green in color. To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.

Although they look hardy, eggplants are actually very perishable and care should be taken in their storage. Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not cut eggplant before you store it as it perishes quickly once its skin has been punctured or its inner flesh exposed.

Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days. If it is too large for the crisper, do not try to force it in; this will damage the skin and cause the eggplant to spoil and decay. Instead, place it on a shelf within the refrigerator.

Tips for Preparing Eggplant

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.

Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. However, the larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. To remove skin, you can peel it before cutting or if you are baking it, you can scoop out the flesh once it is cooked.

To tenderize the flesh’s texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.

Rinsing the eggplant after “sweating” will remove most of the salt.

Eggplant can be baked, roasted in the oven, or steamed.

Eggplant Nutrition

According to my handy dandy “Farmers’ Market Guide and Cookbook”, eggplant has measurable amounts of folic acid, potassium and is high in sodium.

Back to vegetable garden bed 1

Bell Pepper Plants for 2014

bell_pepper

Bell PepperThe bell pepper I chose to plant for 2014 is a bull nose pepper that is a heirloom

This year I plan on planting 9 bell pepper plants in 36 square feet in garden bed one. The plot is roughly 6′ x 6′. The plants will be planted 24″ apart in a square plot. I am planting a heirloom bell pepper. The seeds were bought from the Thomas Jefferson Center and they are called bull nose peppers.

The details on the back describe the pepper as a heirloom that goes as far back as the 1700’s. My wife bought these seeds as part of a Christmas gift this year.

The seeds were started indoors in mid February. I planted 15 pots. All are growing well. I will plant the best nine and give my neighbors the remaining viable plants. Planting will happen Memorial Day weekend. As discussed on the garden bed 1 page the entire bed will have peat moss added before planting. Each bell pepper plant will get a 1/2 gallon of organic compost added.

Bell peppers are members of the Nightshade family of vegetables along with potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. Like chili peppers, bell peppers originated in South America. Bell peppers have  vitamin A and are rich in vitamin C and Beta Carotene. According to WHfoods .org, a green pepper has approximately 12% of the daily values of vitamin A, 137% of the daily value of vitamin C and 340mcg of beta carotene. What is interesting is that WHfoods states that red bell peppers have even more vitamin A and C than green bell peppers – go figure!! Bell peppers also supply small levels of vitamin E.

 

Back to vegetable garden bed 1

Back to 2014 garden

Tomato Varieties for The Garden

burpee roma organic will be planted for eating and canning

Tomato Varieties to be planted this year:

Tomato varieties are the mainstay of many home gardens. When grown correctly fresh garden tomatoes are fantastic. They can be eaten straight from the garden, cooked into sauces, stews, soups – just pick what you like and tomatoes can probably be added. Tomatoes can be easily canned using the hot water method, for directions go to Ball Corp, and can even be frozen. So, any excess fruit grown can be stored for another day. When we have enough, my wife and I stew the tomatoes and can for use in sauces, soups, stews and chili.

Tomatoes have vitamins A, B, C, iron, phosphorous and potassium.

The first of the two tomato varieties I planted for the 2015 garden was a straight forward type called “Abe Lincoln”. It is an organic tomato. It started slow but once it got started it went crazy. Planted – 4 pots with 4 seeds eAbe Lincoln tomatoes are American Heirloomach on March 1. I planted 4 of the plants the 2nd week of June. All are over 6’ tall and as of mid-September have produced a little over 12 lbs. with about twice that amount yet to come. The flesh is firm a solid red and almost a perfect round shape. I really like this tomato, it is juicy but not so much that when cut into there is a mess. Cut a slice and sprinkle some salt – excellent.

The advertising for the Abe Lincoln states: 90 days, indeterminate — ‘Abraham Lincoln’ was originally released by H. W. Buckbee Seed of Rockford, Illinois in 1923. Abraham Lincoln tomatoes are large, meaty, flavorful heirloom tomatoes. There are many exceptional heirloom tomatoes, but ‘Abraham Lincoln’ consistently produces huge crops of extra-large, meaty fruit.

The second tomato variety I chose is an heirloom organic. I picked Botanical Interests Pole Cherokeepole cherokee purple tomato varieties will be grown for summer time eating Purple. I have grown this tomato before and really enjoy it. Pole Cherokee is a big, meaty, tasty hunkin’ tomato. The meat is firm and there really is not a lot of excess juice (which I like).

The company advertising states: 80 days from transplanting. Indeterminate. Cherokee’s rose/purple skin with green shoulders encases red brick colored flesh with just the right level of sweetness. You’ll be harvesting large numbers of 10 to 12 oz. tomatoes from this well regarded heirloom variety from summer to fall. The flavor has been described as yummy, tasty, wonderful, delicious, heavenly, and unbelievable! Provide support for vigorous vines that reach 6 feet or more. The package states organic and labeled NO GMO

Planted – 4 pots with 4 seeds each on March 1. I planted 4 of the plants the second week of June (family vacation trumped planting this year) So far this year, as of September 18th, I picked about 16 lbs. The Cherokee Pole plants are smaller plants than the Abe Lincolns but frankly I think they taste better and grow larger fruits.

tomatoes_on_the_vine

tomato vines with tomatoes

I planted 8 plants along the north side of garden bed 1. Spacing is as instructed – 2 feet apart. The other plants in the bed are peppers and eggplants. The spacing away from the tomatoes is also 2 feet. This year I have kept the plants trimmed. I cut off about two thirds of the leaves trying to keep air circulating. Any leaves that hit the ground were immediately removed. Watering was kept on the light side and during the late morning to give the plants time to dry. So far, as of September 18th, all the plants have stayed healthy. I do cage my plants and frankly they do well. What is great – no chemicals used on the plants. Just 2 doses of Miracle Grow 10-10-10 fertilizer early in the season nothing more. About as organic as I get!!!

Over Labor Day my grown children “went shopping” in the garden. Each ended up with tomatoes, as well as other veggies, to bring home.

As of October 11, all tomato plants were pulled. We ended up with 8 plants producing 35 lbs. of tomatoes. That is only 4+ lbs. per plant. In theory we should have been able to grow about 60+ lbs. with 8 tomato plants. With the early summer cold and damp and the summer very dry I can excuse away. Others that also garden stated their tomatoes were somewhat the same as ours so….. Still for the investment in 2 packages of seeds – roughly $4.00 we were able to produce (based on our local supermarket prices of $1.50/lb.) $52.00 in tomatoes for the season. All were eaten, saved and given away.

Back to vegetable garden bed 1

Just a quick note, I always like to try different ideas. For the 2014 garden I tried growing a tomato from Canada that turned out to be a hybrid. The tomatoes that I took the seeds from were large, juicy and delicious. The tomatoes that grew from the seeds ended up being a plumb tomato. They were not overly tasty at all. So…word of warning.

2014 Vegetable Garden

Strawberry are great fruits to grow. Ordinary strawberry fruit ripen in June in the Northeast US

Strawberry are great fruits to grow in the vegetable garden. Ordinary strawberry fruit ripen in June in the Northeast USVegetable Garden

So this is the gardening section of the blog. Gardens and garden work for me are “Zen”. Vegetable gardens are the ultimate in Zen. If planned correctly and managed, vegetable gardens provide food and satisfaction. If managed well, vegetable gardens save money and provide quality food that can be “chemical” free and GMO free. For me that is very important. I started my vegetable garden for several reasons:

First – I am cheap. Food prices and quality have become a joke. I can go to any store and find plenty of fresh food. Problem – Look at the prices – ridiculous;

 Second – what is the quality of the food being sold – are there pesticide residues? What about GMO? Has the food been genetically engineered? If you don’t know much about some of the concerns people are raising about GMO just surf the web there are plenty of articles. You can also watch documentaries. Vermont passed a law requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such in grocery stores;

Third – a well-planned and managed vegetable garden can and will provide food long after the fall frosts have come and shut down the garden season. I like that because I hate spending money and just think, as the “preppers” out there say…well you know ;

Fourth – there is a lot to be said for “thinking globally and acting locally”. No better efficiency in field-to-table than backyard-to-table. Think of the saved fossil fuels & labor; and finally

Fifth – Gardening is a science experiment. For the last three years I have changed up tactics, tried new varieties. I like to grow cabbage. I have tried various ways to control cabbage moths – picking off the eggs works best and there is no need for pesticides. Last year I tried new tomatoes (heirloom), it was an unmitigated disaster. Blight took all of them. This year I will try something different. The ultimate goal of my garden is to grow enough vegetables for a summer and fall of good eating and then enough for the entire winter. Pretty lofty goal!!

With all that said, my garden for 2014 will consist of three beds that are 8’ x 16’ and a section along the back yard fence that is allocated for 12′ x 4′ of potatoes, 8’ of garlic and 8’ of shallots.

Bed # 1 will be filled with a “crop” that should be planted late May and stay viable until Frost.

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