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In fact, we were never fond of eggplants until we started to grow these diverse varieties at home. Once we saw how beautiful and delicious eggplants can be in the garden and kitchen, we were hooked!
That lovely large eggplant above, for instance, is the famous Italian heirloom ‘Rosa Bianca.’ It never turns bitter and is delightful for cooking. The small, striped ‘Calliope’ on the side is an Asian style eggplant, which is delightful stuffed or grilled with herbs. And that green speckled round thing is actually a squash called ‘Ronde de Nice,’ but that’s another story.
Some other favorite eggplants we’ve grown include the darling, purple striped ‘Fairy Tale’shown at the bottom of the photo. This hybrid plant grows less than 3 feet tall and is ideal for containers. The prolific ‘Fairy Tale’ produces many small lavender eggplants in about 50 days after transplanting.
‘Little Fingers’ is the hybrid eggplant you see nestled between that yellow banana pepper and ‘Patison Golden Marbre Scallop’ squash. The very dark violet-black eggplants come 65 days after transplanting, and are moist and succulent – never bitter. Incidentally, I’ve grown both ‘Fairy Tale’ and ‘Little Fingers’ in large containers with much success, making them ideal for small or urban gardens.
Eggplants are related to tomatoes and peppers, so they like the same growing conditions. These warm-season plants thrive in rich, well amended garden soil in a full sun location. Always wait until after the first frost date of the year, before you plant cold-sensitive eggplants.
Feed eggplants with the same type of fertilizers as you would tomatoes, so they get the right nutrients. Often the plants will grow tall at maturity so you’ll need to add a stake to prop up the plants.
Just as with tomatoes, you’ll want to start eggplant seeds indoors about eight to ten weeks prior to your last frost date. Then you’ll need to slowly acclimatize your eggplants to the outdoor temperatures over a week or so.
Want something easier? Buy transplants from your local gardening center and grow eggplants that way. You may not have the largest selection, but sometimes you luck out.
This six-pack is the Japanese eggplant ‘Millionaire’. The hybrid has narrow black eggplants that grow 5 to 8 inches long, without seeds. The eggplants ripen only 58 days after transplanting. Said to be “the highest quality variety of Japanese eggplants,” the plant label claims they are great grilled, stir fried, pickled, in eggplant parmesan and more. Hearing all those attributes, we were hooked and the hybrid found a place in our garden this summer.
Why not give eggplants a try too? You might be amazed at all the different varieties and cultivars available from seeds or transplants. And you’ll never look at eggplants the same way again.