Eggplant, Solanum melongena
Eggplants originated in India. They thrive in our long, hot summers. If you can grow tomatoes and peppers, you can grow eggplants, too.
There are many varieties available from different seed companies. I prefer the long skinny Asian varieties for stir frying.
The fruits can be purple, white, green, orange or combinations of these colors.
How to grow eggplants
Eggplants are usually planted in the garden as seedlings. You can buy eggplant seedlings from the local garden center. They will usually have one or two of the common varieties available in the spring. If you want to try the more unusual varieties, you can order seeds and grow your own seedlings. This seed company sells many unusual varieties and has great pictures and descriptions:
Eggplant seeds should be planted indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the frost-free date. Soil temperature of 85 degrees will promote germination, so add bottom heat. You can purchase heating cables or mats designed for seed germination. The seeds should sprout in 7 to 10 days.
Eggplants are very sensitive to cold. You should wait to plant them outside until the soil has warmed and the night temperatures are warm. Plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart in the garden. They can grow up to 4 feet tall, depending on the variety.
Eggplants have pretty purple flowers that are pollinated by bees. Most varieties take about 65 to 70 days until the first fruits are ready to harvest. For best quality, pick the fruits while they are young and firm. The plants will keep producing until the weather turns cold in the fall.
Eggplants are in the plant family Solanaceae, along with peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco. Here is a surprising fact about the nicotine content of eggplants:
"Eggplant is richer in nicotine than any other edible plant, with a concentration of 100 ng/g (or 0.01mg/100g). However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to passive smoking. Therefore, 20lbs of eggplant, on average, would contain about the amount of nicotine in an average cigarette."
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