Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a tender perennial native to Asia. It grows up to 3 feet tall with a similar spread and has wide, coarsely lobed leaves. The stem is often prickly. The flowers are shaped like other flowers in the nightshade family with five fused petals and bright yellow stamen. They may be white or purple. The fruit is fleshy with a waxy skin and is most popularly dark purple but is available in many different colors and shapes. This can be a very decorative dual purpose garden plant.
Other Names auburgine, brinjal
History and Folklore
It is believed that eggplant originated in India but it was first cultivated in China. Thomas Jefferson first introduced eggplant to the US in 1806.
Interesting note: Eggplant seeds contain nicotine. About 20 pounds will equal the same amount as a cigarette.
Eggplant may be started indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost. They should be planted out in a sunny location only after the nights have warmed up to more than 50 degrees. They like fertile soil so add some compost when you plant them. Plant 18-24 inches apart. (I plant them in the four corners of the planter box.)
Mulch around the base of stems to keep off weeds and help retain moisture as well as to keep the roots warm in case of a cold snap. Start pinching off flowers as the growing season comes to an end so that the plant concentrates on ripening existing fruits.
Harvesting & Storage
Cut away fruit when plump, glossy, and big enough to use. Store in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
Eggplant is a Jupiter plant.
It can be used in magical cooking to attract wealth and prosperity.
A diet high in eggplant is helpful for type 2 diabetes. It is high in fiber and has a low glycemic index.
Eggplant is also purported to help lower cholesterol and offer some protection against cancer and heart disease.
However, eggplant should be avoided by those who suffer from gout and other inflammatory issues.
Folklore says that pregnant women shouldn’t eat eggplants because they may cause miscarriages. However, eating a normal amount of eggplant as an occasional side dish is certainly safe.
Before using, slice and salt your eggplant and let it sit for a few minutes then rinse to remove bitter flavor. This will also reduce the amount of oil your eggplant absorbs during cooking as eggplants can absorb ridiculous amounts of oil. Eggplant is delicious stewed, roasted or fried.
Eggplant blends well with other members of the nightshade family, like potatoes and tomatoes and is great with rice or pasta.