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Ichiban Eggplant are perfect for long slices for your Lasagna!

Ichiban Eggplants are perfect for long slices for your Lasagna!

Some things have no reasonable explanation. When I think of Eggplant I hear Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald…

And you thought your eggplant were just being temperamental! Well that’s exactly right! TEMPeramental! Eggplant fruit set is best when night temps are 60 degrees or more. Our coastal Santa Barbara night temps are still in the 50s. BUT if you read an Oregon site, they say night temps for Solanaceae, toms, peppers, eggplant, fruit set need to be 50 or above. Since we have lots of tomatoes at 1 to 2″ diameters at our community garden right now, and our night temps have been in the 50s, I would say they are right! So you lucky gardeners with blooming eggies, are going to be having eggplant babies! The warmer the weather the deeper the purple color!

Eggplants Varieties in a Charming Woven Basket

A pale purple Listada de Gandia, White Beauty, a couple of long, slender Thai Green, several deep-purple Violette Longue happily and proudly grown by Suzanne Ashworth

First plantings are usually in March; June is fine for last rounds of smaller fruited varieties. There are several types of eggplants, growers have their favorites! The big fat pear shaped Black Beauties, slender chic Japanese longs, and many new differently colored varieties and shapes on the market. If you have a short growing season, shade or a cool location, choose smaller fruited types, early-ripening eggplant varieties and start with large transplants. My favorite is Japanese longs because I can cut them in perfect strips to layer my lasagna!

Blue Marble Hybrid and Millionaire Hybrid are best for container gardening or for closer spacing. Ichiban produces abundant, tender, sweet, purple-skinned fruit 4 to 6 inches long, is easy to grow. And there is a “tomato-fruited” variety! More fun by the minute!

Companion Plants! Marlene Affeld says ‘Hot peppers are a good neighbor to eggplant and most other garden vegetables. Hot peppers emit a chemical from the plant roots that helps prevent Fusarium, root rot, and a wide range of other plant diseases!’ She also says Eggplant can be somewhat prone to insect attacks. This we know! Flea Beetles think they are the best thing since sliced bread! Strongly scented herbs such as thyme, rosemary, chamomile, lavender, horehound, oregano, sage, basil, and tarragon help repel insect invaders repulsed by the pungent herbal scent emitted by the herbs. Radish is a terrific trap plants for flea beetles – the beetles like radish more than eggplants! Eat a few of the radish, let the rest grow out and protect your Eggies. Thyme is especially effective against garden moths and aphids.

Special care! Early mulches can be dark colored to bring heat. When it gets hot, lay on some reflective straw that when moistened makes a sauna effect, keeps soil cool, but is moist topside!

Soil  These beauties love well drained rich organic soil, well composted, as well as super organic fertilizer like blood meal, well-rotted manure, cottonseed meal or bat guano. Be sure to use the ‘right’ bat guano. They will root to a depth of 3 to 4 feet, so a barrier free (no rocks) sandy or silt loam is ideal.

Eggplants are hungry. They like to be fed, but small amounts spread over summer. Otherwise it’s all leaf and no fruit. Jamaican Seabird guano, slow to breakdown to be available to your plants, is great to add at planting time for late season blooming! Feed them for sure after your first fruits are harvested.

Oh, and they like lots of water too, at least 2 inches of water a week, more in very hot weather. To avoid flower and fruit drop, water deeply and regularly, especially during long, dry periods. For that fine eggplant taste, just like with lettuce, we want rapid growth and fruit maturity. 

Healthy, generously producing eggplants often need support while they have those heavy fruits. Put small tomato cages over them when they are little plants for support later on. Also, some growers remove lower leaves and flowers so fruits can’t touch the ground and get fruit rot. Another reason to use cages. No slouching eggplants! Also remove those lover leaves to slow down the Verticillium wilt. Though the wilt is also wind borne, the main way it is taken up by your plant is from infected soil contact.

POLLINATION! Eggplants, in the Tomato family, are also wind pollinated! That means insects like bees and moths don’t do the job. Bumblebees do! They do buzz pollination, called sonification, that shakes the flower to release the pollen! Humans can help too. About 11AM to noon, when it’s warm, the flower opens a bit. Just like with tomatoes, that’s when to give the main stems a sharp rap! That acts the same as wind, releasing that pollen! Wet, high humidity or especially hot temps are not good. Hand pollination might be required. It’s easy to do – move a small paintbrush around inside the flower, do every flower!

Disease Resistant Varieties  Verticillium wilt is the main disease in eggplants. Sadly, there’s not much we can do about it. Leaves brown and die. All varieties are susceptible, some more than others. Oregon varieties that thrive in their cooler weather, are Dusky, Epic, Bambino (round), Cloud Nine, Black Bell, Calliope, Burpee Hybrid, Millionaire, (elongated), Megal, Bride, Orient Express. All of these varieties have shown tolerance to verticillium.

Pest prevention can be rotating your crop every other year or so, if you have space. Keep pest habitat to a minimum. That means weed regularly and remove debris. Row covers help keep pests away. Plant trap crops the pests like better, like radish for flea beetles. Use insecticidal soaps to get rid of those frustrating pests if there are too many. Flea beetles may be tiny, but the little devils suck the life out of your plant, interrupt your plant’s life, lower it’s general health and definitely production. Boo. Other Pests are aphids, lace bugs, whiteflies, and red spider mites. See UC Davis Eggplant problems diagnosed.

Harvest Eggplants take about 11 weeks to make those beautiful fruits. Long skinny varieties take a little more time, and the small Easter egg types, less. To get them soonest, at planting time lay in some black plastic ground cover, or cover with a spun fabric row cover. When they start blooming, remove the cover so they can be pollinated. As they grow, the row cover will also protect them from pests like flea beetles. As your eggplant grow, you can cover them with a cloche. Make your own cloche or hot cap by cutting out the bottom of a gallon plastic milk jug. Cover your plants until the first hot stretch of summer. Remember to uncover them during hot midday.

Harvest on time to keep them coming. When that fruit is firm and shiny, pick it! No storing on the plant. Harvest gently and carefully to avoid damage to their pretty skins, and puncturing, to avoid bruising and compression injuries. FYI Depending on the market and plant vigor, some commercial growers cut eggplants back to 18 inches for a second harvest in fall.

A common error is harvesting too late. Firm, vibrant and glossy is good. Dull is not. Depending on the variety, the calyx, the part holding the eggplant, should be green, not brown and drying. If it is brown and the fruit is spongy, the fruit is past peak, already drying internally, possibly bitter with hard seeds. With white and light-colored varieties yellow means they are over mature, compost. To keep your plant producing, cut off over mature fruit and see if it will produce any further. If you are done for the season, use over-ripe fruits for seed saving.

Seed Saving! Save seeds from your very best plant! It’s easy to do. Let the last one rot until very stinky, turns yellow. Oh, boy. Here is the Gardening Australia’s way of doing it. Stephen Clay McGehee at Southern Agrarian says …if you are saving seeds, you need to plant as many as possible (six is considered the absolute minimum) in order to maintain genetic diversity in your plants and their seeds. And he admits there are a LOT of seeds even in ONE eggplant! In his case he shares with West Africa missionary friends who plant them in their garden and share with the natives in their village. He says ‘They also carried a number of other seeds from our garden and seeds that others have shared with us.’ You could share with your local Seed Swap!

Eggplant Seed Saving

Storage They don’t store well, 14 days max depending on the variety. They get chilling injury in the fridge. Chinese varieties are the most resistant, American varieties the least. 50 to 54 Degrees is best, and not with ethylene-producing fruits, apples, bananas, melons or tomatoes.

Historical Note According to the American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening — Vegetables, “A 5th Century Chinese book contains one of the oldest references to eggplant. A black dye was made from the plant, and ladies of fashion used it to stain their teeth – which, when polished, gleamed like metal.” How strange and wonderful.

Eggplant Cuisine! China, 62%, and India produce the world’s most eggplant! As of Sep 2019, in the US, New Jersey is now #1! It grows 849 acres of eggplants, compared to No. 2 California’s 144 acres. If you want to, enjoy the October 3 Loomis CA Eggplant Festival! 2020 Eggplant is a valued Mediterranean food, was a food staple in Africa before the middle ages.

Burpee tip! ‘When eggplants are plentiful, make up a bunch of casseroles in foil pans and freeze them [for when the snow is blowing].’ They can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, baked, sautéed, stewed, stuffed, dried, fried, braised, mashed, pickled, pureed, or breaded and fried! Just Google ‘Eggplant Cuisine’ for super delicious options, recipes and beautiful presentations!

Eggplant Cuisine, Baingan Ka Bharta, Indian Eggplant in an Elegant Blue Bowl!

Baingan Ka Bharta, Indian Eggplant

1 hour · Vegan Gluten free Paleo · Serves 4

  • 1 Cilantro
  • 2 tsp Coriander, powder
  • 2 Eggplants, large
  • 5 Garlic cloves
  • 1 inch Ginger knob
  • 2 Serrano pepper
  • 3 Tomatoes, medium
  • 1 White onion, large

Baking & Spices

  • 4 tbsp Avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tsp Garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric, powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds

Enjoy the Beauty and every Bite of your superb Eggplants!

Updated 5.27.20


Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Yummerlicous basket of summer veggies grown near Mahanandi, a peaceful temple town in India.  Indira and her Husband Vijay share the traditional recipes of their families.  Brinjals, btw, are eggplants!

Each of your plants has special harvest needs and techniques to get continuing excellent returns! 

  • Be gentle in closely planted areas.  Leaf damage opens your plant to diseases and pests.  Breaking off new tender shoots stops that point of growth.
  • Harvest when your plants are dry, before you water, to reduce disease spread.

Beets  Pull when they are small and tender.  Steam the leaves too.

Broccoli  Though thought of as a winter crop, All Season brocs are perkin’ right along, prolific with side shoots!  Keep them picked to keep them coming.  Get them to the fridge ASAP because they wilt fast.

Cantaloupe is ready when it ‘slips’ from the plant – no pulling, it just comes off in your hand.

Corn is ripe when the silks turn crispy brown, and the juice is white when you pierce a kernel with your finger  nail.  Corn pretty much comes in all at once.  Get ready to feast, invite friends!  Corn turns starchy immediately, so get it to the fridge, or into that boiling water ASAP!  Cut the kernels off the cob to sprinkle over salads, freeze for winter stews.

Carrots  Poke around with your finger to see if the shoulder, the top of the carrot, is the size you want.  Loosen the soil with a spade fork if necessary, pull, rinse, eat!  I mean take them home to share with your family!  If they are hairy and forked, your soil was too rich.  If the shoulders are green, they needed to have been covered with soil.

Cucumbers!  Harvest at will.  Your choice, but big ones can be seedy.  And if you wait too long, the plant thinks it’s done and stops producing.  Harvesting smaller is better.  Keep your cucs well watered – they make a watery fruit.  Pickle some!  Grow dill beside them to be ready for pickling.

Eggplant, Aubergine.  Shiny.  When they are shiny and they don’t spring back when you press them.  The more you clip, the more you get.  Another no-store-on-the-plant!

Green Beans  Or any kind of bean!  Pick, pick, pick, carefully so as not to damage your plant, to keep them coming!  Pick when the leaves are dry, so you don’t spread diseases, and before the pods get bumpy.

Lettuces  Crisp summer lettuce salads hit the spot!  Pick the leaves last, just before you head for the fridge.  Keep taking the lower leaves.  If your plant starts to bolt (grow upward), take the whole plant right away unless you want it to seed for you, otherwise, it’s compost.

Peppers!   When they are big and they’ve got that great pepper shape!  Peppers have a specific number they reach and they won’t make any more until you pick some!

Radish  Keep them well watered for fast growth, pull before they split.  They are usually a bit hotter in summer.

Summer Squash (zucchini, crookneck, etc.)  Cut them off at your preference, but when it’s hot, keep a watch under those leaves!  Giant squash sap the strength from your plant and keep younger fruit from developing.  Harvest small for salad slices.  When you find a giant hiding, use it for stuffing and baking.  If you are getting too many, pick the blossoms off to slow them down; eat the blossoms!

See ALL about SQUASH at On The Green Farms! 

Tomatoes!  Red on the vine, before the bugs, birds or mice get them.

Watermelon  When the tendrils start to dry and the bottom of the melon turns creamy color.  If it makes a dull sound when you thump it, it’s overripe.

SEEDS!  Seeds are another kind of harvest!  Let your best plants flower and seed.  Collect those seeds for planting next year!  But not the seeds of hybrids or corn unless your corn in no way can hybridize with anyone else’s corn!

Preserve!  If you have a great abundance, start preserving!  Dry, freeze, can!

Share!  Have extra tomatoes, beans, cukes, zuchs, and you don’t have time or inclination to preserve?!  Share your abundance! Here’s how!

  • Give to Pilgrim Terrace residents!  Take your veggies to the office 8 AM to 5 PM (Modoc/Portesuello).  They watch the garden for us, so it’s good payback!  The elders really appreciate fresh veggies and herbs!
  • Santa Barbara County’s Foodbank  Drop off M-F 7 AM – 3:30 PM at  4554 Hollister Av.
  • Share at weekend Neighborhood Food Exchanges!  Dates and locations  

Thanks for your generosity when so many really need your kindness.   Just a quick stop among your errands….

Organic garden-fresh produce can’t be beat!  Enjoy every life-giving luscious bite!

Next week:  August in Your Garden!

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