Eggplants or aubergines, as they are called in England, are crops that grow well in warmer climates.
Just like their relatives – tomatoes and peppers, eggplants are sensitive to cold, and exposure to frost might cause serious injury to the plant. It is therefore advisable to check the date of the last spring frost before transplanting this crop outdoors.
The usual planting periods for eggplants are March and April, though variations are common, given the different frost dates throughout the US.
Apart from the planting time, you must also plan when to pick eggplant, as each variety has different maturity days.
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Best Time to Pick Eggplant
Eggplant harvest time is usually anytime from July to October, 65 to 90 days after they are transplanted. Since they are not tolerant of freezing temperatures, keep in mind to harvest eggplant before the first fall frost arrives. Here are the harvest times of some common eggplant varieties:
1. Chinese eggplant
You can harvest long purple eggplant varieties like the Chinese eggplant 50 to 60 days after transplanting, and at this point, their length should be around 18 inches. Pick Chinese eggplant when it is showing signs of ripening such as having glossy skin and a firm fruit.
2. Sicilian eggplant
Pick Sicilian eggplant when they reach about 9 to 13 inches in size. This variety takes about 61 days to mature from transplanting before the fruits could be harvested.
3. Indian eggplant
There are multiple varieties of Indian eggplant, but one common cultivar is called Bharata star, and it matures 60 to 70 days after transplanting. It produces round eggplants that are deep purple in color.
4. Black beauty eggplant
Black beauty eggplant is ripe when the skin is glossy and deep purple in color. The fruit’s full size at harvest should be around 5 inches, and it should have brown or black stems.
These eggplants have a rather long growing period and mature 75 to 90 days after planting.
5. White eggplant
White eggplants are ready for harvest when their skin and seeds are white or creamy in color. Depending on the variety, it usually takes white eggplants around 75 days to mature.
How to Pick and Store Eggplant?
Harvesting from a full grown eggplant plant is relatively easy. Below are some of the key things you must take note of when harvesting eggplant:
- Observe the seeds of your crop. An eggplant ready to harvest should have seeds that are soft and formed. Brown seeds indicate overmature fruits.
- The best method when picking an eggplant is to cut the fruit’s stem off the main plant using a knife or clean garden shears. Avoid forcefully pulling the eggplant as it might damage both the fruit and the plant.
- It is not advisable to wait too long before harvesting. Eggplant ready to pick should be removed as soon as possible to allow the plant to divert its energy into producing more fruits.
Once you have carefully picked your eggplants, good storage practices are the key to optimizing their shelf life. Eggplant storage tips are as follows:
- If you are using them within the next few days, you can keep eggplants at room temperature. It is ideal to place them in a cool area with good airflow and away from direct sunlight.
- If you want to prolong the eggplant’s shelf life to about a week, it is important to increase airflow and keep it away from moisture. To do this, wrap them in a paper towel before storing in an uncovered container in the refrigerator.
- Avoid washing them before storage as moisture might cause their quality to degrade prematurely.
- Do not mix them with produce that emits ethylene gas such as apples and bananas as this gas quickens the ripening process, making your eggplants rot before you could consume them.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know when to pick an eggplant?
You can pick an eggplant when its surface appears generally smooth and glossy as compared to an overripe eggplant that is wrinkled and dull in color. Harvest the eggplant by cutting it off the main plant using a pair of clean shears. Remember to wear gloves to avoid getting pricked by the small thorns on the fruit’s calyx.
How big should eggplants be before picking?
The size of a ripe eggplant largely depends on its variety and growing conditions and is not a clear indication of the fruit’s maturity. However, here are some of the average sizes of common eggplant varieties:
- Chinese eggplants: 18 inches
- Sicilian eggplants: 9-13 inches
- Japanese eggplants: 3-6 inches
- Black beauty eggplants: 5 inches
What does a ripe eggplant feel like?
Pick eggplant from garden when the fruit appears glossy and the skin bounces back slowly when pressed lightly. A fruit that is either too hard or too soft indicates that the eggplant is either too young, or too ripe to be eaten.
Will eggplant ripen after picking?
In case you need to harvest them early, you can ripen eggplants after picking by placing them in a paper bag and storing them at room temperature. They would ripen in a few days. Also, produce that releases ethylene would be helpful in this case to accelerate the ripening process.
Eggplants are amazing plants that will reward you with a bountiful harvest when their growing requirements are met. They come in many shapes and sizes – long eggplant, round eggplant, or mini eggplant, and each has a unique flavor and maturity date.
You should therefore pick the most suitable type for your environment and resources. Knowing how to grow and when to pick eggplant are a must so that in a few months’ time, you can have your own supply of garden eggplant.