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Eggplants always seem slightly magical and vaguely impossible creations glossy skin in fully saturated hues that willingly support a huge range of flavors. A member of the nightshade family, eggplant is cultivated all over the world. It is a staple ingredient for Middle Eastern baba ganoush, Southeast Asian curries, Italian antipasta, or Greek mousakka. It can be canned or cooked and frozen.
Nutrients: vitamins A, K, B6, thiamin, niacin, folate, magnesium and potassium.
Eggplant is a frost-sensitive annual that requires full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. A heat loving plant, eggplant prefers moist soil while young, but once established can withstand short dry periods.
Sow eggplant seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. Optimal soil temperature for germination is 75-90°F.
Sow seeds 1/4″ deep. Seeds will sprout in 6-21 days. Harden plants off before transplanting outdoors. Transplant outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures are 60°F and above. Mature plants should be spaced 24″apart.
Eggplant tastes best when harvested young. If you cut into an eggplant and find an abundance of brown seeds, it's already too late for prime eating. The fruit will be thin and glossy when it's ready to harvest. The surface of the eggplant will turn dull and it will taste bitter as it gets older and past its prime. To harvest eggplant, cut through the stem above the green cap, or calyx, on the top. It's a tough stem, so have a sharp knife handy. The calyx can be prickly, so you may want to wear gloves.
Eggplants are self-pollinating, though they are visited by insects, so distance should be observed or screened cages used. To ensure vigor in your seed genetics, grow at least 6 plants together. Let the fruits grow far past maturity as seed saved from immature or ready-to-eat plants will not be viable. Seeds are also much easier to remove from overripe fruits, and can be done by picking out the seeds by hand or putting the flesh in a blender with a few inches of water and mixing on low speed. The seeds should sink and the pulp will rise so you can pour it off. Allow cleaned seed to dry completely before storage.