I am sure eggplant has a lot of culinary uses, however, I only use eggplant in one recipe and that is eggplant parm. I know, I know, I should really expand my horizons, but when it comes to eggplant, for me and my family, eggplant parm is the way to go.
What makes the eggplant parm even better is that I use eggplant grown right at home. There are a lot of eggplant variety choices to go with, but the ones that I like are of the black beauty variety. I have grown ichiban and Italian purple in the past, both eggplant varieties are prolific producers, grow great in many different climates, and are easy to maintain. I give you an idea of a few more eggplant varieties at the end of this article.
When growing your eggplant from seed, give your eggplant a head start by planting your eggplant seeds indoors about 4 weeks prior to your last frost. Eggplant seeds are fairly small so try not to plant your eggplant seeds more than a quarter of an inch or six millimeters deep. Under optimal conditions, your eggplant seeds should germinate in as little as 7 days. Optimal, meaning a good quality potting soil, in a humidity dome, a cloche etc., where temps can get up to eighty-five degrees.
Once you are ready to move your eggplant to the outdoors, make sure you choose a sunny location (full sun works best) where the soil has a pH level of 5.5 to 7.0 (acidic to neutral). Space out your eggplant eighteen inches (45 centimeters), although in a square foot garden you can get away with one eggplant per square. I personally think it will be a bit tight. But that’s me.
Eggplant will do better with a moderate to heavy watering and a bi-weekly feeding of some type of fertilizer such as a manure tea. When rotating, eggplant will do well following beans or peas. In companion planting, eggplant fairs well with beans, peas, and peppers, but not so well with fennel.
Eggplant seeds will germinate well for the better part of four years or more when stored properly in a cool, dry location.
As a side note, with black beauty eggplant varieties, I like to use a garden stake to prop them up as the fruit on them is heavy and will make them tip over.
Harvest your eggplant when they reach full maturity as described on your seed packet for the variety you have decided to plant. I like to use a pair of scissors and cut the eggplant where the stem meets the fruit and harvest when I know I am going to use my eggplant within 24 hours. Eggplant tastes better to me that way.
Some other great varieties to grow include Diva, Kermit, Machiaw, Rosa Bianca and Little fingers.