It's the turn of eggplant in this Veggie Bootcamp! Don't forget that our new vegetable and herb greenhouse, the Veggie House, is now open!*
Eggplants are warm weather vegetables harvested in mid-to-late summer. They are full of nutrients and high in antioxidants, so they are definitely a great addition to a vegetable garden and dinner plate.
Did you know that the eggplant is technically a fruit? This is because they grow from a flowering plant and contain seeds!
Your eggplant starters will want a very sunny spot to grow in your garden, and soil that is well-draining. Add organic matter (such as Rulf's Garden Mix) and fertilizer or well-rotted manure to the bed about a week before planting, if possible.
Eggplants can also be grown in pots, if space is an issue! Make sure the pots are dark in color and at least 5 gallons in size. Place them in full sun outside (as this veggie needs our bee friends to help with pollination). To avoid disease, use a premium potting mix for your potted starters.
Staking or caging your eggplants should be done right away to avoid damage to the plant and disturbing the soil too much later on. Your plants may grow to be several feet in height (it is possible they can grow to 8 feet tall! Yikes! Although yours will more likely be around 2-4), so get those stakes or cages set up early to provide support as the plant grows and eventually becomes heavy with fruit.
Water your plants well after planting, and add a layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil and to deter weeds. Continue to keep them well watered as they grow, making sure to moisten the soil at least 6 inches deep. The plants will reward you for consistent watering and soil that is moist but never soggy.
How can you tell when an eggplant is ready to be harvested? Look at the skin. If it's shiny and glossy, unwrinkled with a solid color, and when pressed with your finger it bounces back without leaving a dent, it’s ready to be cut off the vine.
TIP: Don't wait for your eggplants to reach the size of the ones you see in stores! Homegrown eggplants are usually smaller. Use the method described above to see if yours are ripe and enjoy!
Cut, rather than pull the fruit off of the plant when you harvest. Use a sharp knife or pruners and slice close to the stem, leaving about 1 inch attached.
Store your eggplants in the refrigerator without washing or cutting them first, and they should last about a week.
Here are some recipes to try with your delicious new homegrown eggplant!
Share your own recipes and tips on our Facebook and spread the veggie love!
*While stocks last. Our Veggie Starters sell fast, and so we cannot guarantee availability of any one item.
*We ask that all visitors please follow social distancing guidelines of leaving 6 feet between you and others, and, where possible, wearing masks to reduce the risk to yours and other households. Thank you in advance!