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Eggplant Growing and Gardening

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.

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 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 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.

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