Eggplant seems to be having a revival of sorts. As I walk through the local farmers’ market I have noticed that there are many different kinds of eggplants as well as eggplant seedlings available for sale. No longer do we have to stick with the old favorite ‘Black Beauty’ with its tough skin, water flesh, and bitter taste, we can now buy or grow cultivars that offer a long tapered body in several colors, tender skin, and sweet flesh that never needs salting before cooking. Think of the time you save if you don’t have to remove the skin and go through the salting routine.
When selecting plants, there are 3 choices based on shape but they differ in other ways too.
Big and Oval: The traditional eggplant that is most common in the supermarket. The plants are 3-4’ tall and produce about 8-10 fruits. Days to harvest runs between 65 and 80 days depending on the variety with most in the 70s.
Example: ‘Black Beauty’ (large egg-shaped dark purple fruit; best in areas with long hot growing season; 75 days to maturity)
Long and Tapered: Also called Asian or Oriental (Chinese, Japanese etc) eggplants, they are smaller in weight than the Big and Oval ones. The plants are 2-3’ tall and produce about 15 fruits. Days to harvest runs between 60 and 80 depending on the variety, with most being in the 60s. These tend to have tender skin, creamy sweet flesh, and are best when baked.
Example: ‘Hansel’(dark purple, finger-sized fruit, 55 days to maturity, 3’ high plants)
Small and Round: Produced on 1-2’ plants, these eggplants produce 20-25 round fruits that are 1-3”. Days to harvest is about 60-80 with at least one variety producing edible fruits in 45 days.
Example: ‘Bambino’ hybrid (dark purple, 1” round fruits; prolific; 45 days to maturity; great for shish-kabobs)
If you have not tried the Asian/Oriental kind you really should. I can’t say enough good things about them! Best of all they are small plants and can be grown in containers.