Fresh eggplant grown in your own garden can be used in so many delicious recipes. Take your eggplant parmigiana recipe to the next level by using your own fresh eggplant. It’s tasty and there isn’t anything else like it.
Have you ever tried grilled eggplant steaks? It’s simple.
One of the simplest ways you can enjoy fresh eggplant is by grilling it. The recipe for “Grilled Eggplant Steaks” is below.
Grilled Eggplant Steaks
Serves: 6 to 8
Prep Time: 40
Total Time: 50
- 3 medium eggplant
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoon pepper
- In a large bowl dissolve salt in 1 cup warm water. Add 3 quarts cold water. Set aside.
- Trim eggplant and cut into 1-inch thick diagonal slices.
- Put slices in salt water, weigh down with an upside-down plate, and let sit 30 minutes.
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat
- Drain eggplant and pat dry with paper towels. Lay on a large baking sheet or tray.
- Brush one side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay oiled-side-down on the grill.
- Close lid. Grill makes will appear in 5 minutes.
- Brush top sides with oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Turn slices over, close lid and cook 5 minutes.
Wash slabs of freshly-sliced eggplant and then grill them with a little seasoning and olive oil for a delicious, healthy summer meal. Growing fresh, delicious eggplant in your own garden this summer is not only satisfying and rewarding, you’ll even save money on your grocery bill and take pride in knowing you are serving your family and friends fresh organic vegetables.
How To Grow Fresh Eggplant
Step 1. Pick A Good Spot For Your Eggplant
Well-drained and full sun.
Eggplant is a warm-weather crop and loves the full summer sun and a well-drained location. Raised beds are ideal for growing eggplant but they will also do well in larger containers or in a conventional vegetable garden.
Eggplant will develop into a large plant, 3 to 4 foot high and 24 to 36 inches in diameter. Consequently, you should space seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart.
Mature plants laden with ripening fruit can become quite heavy and will easily be knocked over during a gusty summer thunderstorm. A single sturdy stake per plant is sufficient support. The stake should be driven at least 2 feet into the ground with at least 3 foot protruding. Install the stakes before you plant seedlings to avoid disruption to the seedling’s root system. Gently and loosely tie the eggplant to the stake as it grows. Use long strips of soft cloth or old pantyhose.
Cages, commonly associated with growing tomatoes, are also ideal for growing eggplant. They provide the vertical support and horizontal containment a growing eggplant requires.
A simple method of maximizing every inch in your garden…
Learn how to maximize the space you have in your garden and save time and money.
Plants Have Relatives Too…
Meet the eggplant’s extended family…
The eggplant belongs to a family called Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus Solanum. Other common garden vegetables also belong to this family and genus. According to Wikipedia, “Solanaceae” is a family of flowering plants that includes a number of important agricultural crops. The name of the family comes from the Latin Solanum, “the nightshade plant”, or potato family. Many members are toxic plants. The family includes Datura, Mandragora (mandrake), Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Lycium barbarum (Wolfberry), Physalis philadelphica (Tomatillo) , Physalis peruviana (Cape gooseberry flower), Capsicum (chili pepper, bell pepper), Solanum (potato, tomato, eggplant), Nicotiana (tobacco), and Petunia.
Step 2. Prepare The Soil
Start at the bottom and work your way up
As with any garden crop, the health and eventually the yield of a plant is directly affected by the nutrients available in the soil it grows in. The first step in growing eggplant is to start with good, healthy soil.
If you are new to gardening, consider starting with containers. One eggplant seedling per container works well. The container should be at least 18 inches in diameter and have drainage holes in the bottom. Purchase a good nutrient-rich garden soil formulated for growing vegetables and fill the container.
If you want to grow on a larger scale, you have two options… raised beds or conventional beds. Raised beds are easy to build. Use 2×8 or 2×10 pressure-treated lumber and build boxes to the desired size. Fill with soil and mix in mulch and a slow release fertilizer to fill the boxes to the brim. To convert to a “square-foot” garden, staple furring strips to the top of the raised bed to section it into one foot squares. (shown above right)
For established gardens, add fully-decomposed mulch/compost in the spring, turn over and mix into the soil with a slow-release fertilizer. Rake smooth and your all set to plant. We recommend Osmocote Multi-Purpose Plant Food. It is an all-in-one solution that provides up to 6 full months of 11 essential mineral nutrients.
Step 3. Plant Your Eggplant
Select quality seeds or seedlings and plant at the correct time…
The first choice to make is whether to start your eggplant from seed or purchase seedlings. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice.
Starting from seed will allow you to select from hundreds of varieties BUT you will need to sow the seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the average last frost date in your area. It will require a near-perfect combination of sunlight, water and warmth to grow healthy seedlings that will be hearty enough to eventually plant outdoors.
For experienced gardeners, that’s not a problem. But for everyone else, I recommend purchasing seedlings from a reputable local nursery. Although your choice of varieties may be limited, you can fast-forward the process by many weeks and plant the seedlings directly outdoors when it is warm enough. Add 6 weeks to the average last frost date for your area to determine when it is safe to plant eggplant seedlings directly outdoors.
When purchasing seedlings from a nursery, make sure they are healthy and stocky, preferably no more than 6 inches tall. Avoid thin, lanky seedlings. You will probably find a healthier selection from a local grower or small farm in your area compared to a large home improvement store’s garden area.
Step 4. Feed And Water The Eggplant
Weekly water and monthly fertilizer are a MUST…
Eggplant should be watered once per week to supplement any rain that has fallen. The plants should also be fertilized once per month after they start producing flowers and fruit.
Provide a total of 2 inches of water per week. A deep soaking once or twice a week is better than a light watering several times a week. Use a rain gauge or a cup placed near the plants to measure the water applied. Be sure to account for any rainfall the plants receive.
The best way to provide water to your eggplant is through a slow-drip “weeper” soaker hose on the ground under the plants or better yet, under plastic mulch if you applied it. This insures water gets right to the roots of the plant where it is needed most.
If you must water from above using a sprinkler or other watering device, ALWAYS water in the early morning hours. The plants will have a chance to dry during the day. Wet plants at night promote fungus and disease.
After the plants begin producing flowers, begin feeding with an organic fertilizer every 3 to 4 weeks. We recommend Dr. Earth Organic Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the package of fertilizer for specific application instructions.
Dr. Earth Organic Vegetable Fertilizer I have used this for 2 years and my vegetables produce so much more than without it. My two cherry tomato plants have produced nearly 40 pounds of cherry tomatoes in plain old dirt mixed with Dr. Earth. Every time I plant new seeds I always mix in a scoop.
Step 5. Care For Your Eggplant
Watch out for pests and disease…
Image by Rubber Slippers In Italy on Flickr
Eggplant are fairly resistant to pests and disease but it is still a good idea to do a weekly inspection of the plants.
Look at the tops and bottoms of the leaves. Does the plant look generally healthy ? Are there holes in the leaves or are the leaves wilted?
One of the few insects that bothers eggplant is the black flea beetle. Tiny holes in the leaves are a tell-tale sign the black flea beetle is feeding on your plants. if you suspect a problem, treat with a general-purpose organic garden dust. We recommend Bonide Organic Garden Dust.
The other fairly common problem with eggplant is a soil-borne fungus, verticillium wilt, which is not curable and will eventually kill the entire plant.
There are good practices every gardener should follow to prevent wilt and other soil-borne fungus and diseases.
1. Use proper crop rotation. Never plant eggplant or tomatoes in the same spot year to year.
2. Choose disease-resistant varieties of seeds or seedlings.
3. Practice good watering techniques. Only water in the early morning.
A few of these preventative measures will significantly decrease the risk of fungus or disease.
If your plants do exhibit signs of verticillium wilt (leaves on one branch will quickly wilt and die), it will eventually spread to the entire plant. The best (and only) remedy is to quickly dispose of the entire plant in the trash. Do not add it to your compost pile. This may save other surrounding plants if diagnosed quickly and the affected plant is removed in time.
“Blossom drop” is another common problem with eggplant. Unlike the same condition in peppers which is caused by excessive heat, blossom drop in eggplants is a sure sign the plant is stressed and not getting enough water. Keep up a good regimine of supplying at least 2 inches of water per week and the problem should go away.
Hungry animals also pose a threat to your eggplant. Deer, rabbits and squirrels have all been known to take a bite out of ripening eggplant in my garden.
Worldwide Eggplant Production
China leads the list with nearly twice as much eggplant production as India at number 2. Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia are 3,4 and 5.
The United States does not appear on the top 10 but within the US, Georgia produces more eggplant than any other state.
Step 6. Harvest The Eggplant.
Be careful of those spike !
Eggplant should be harvested when the fruit is full-size, firm and the skin is shiny.
If the eggplant begins to yellow and soften, it has probably been on the vine too long and will be bitter in flavor.
When harvesting, be extra careful. Some varieties of eggplant will develop needle-sharp spikes on the stem. Use a pair of leather or rose-quality garden gloves. Cut the stem with pruning shears.
Eggplant will continue to grow and produce fruit until the first frost of autumn. If a frost is forecast, cut the remaining eggplant from the plant. As soon as the frost kills the plant, the fruit will turn mushy and be inedible.
Mature eggplants can develop needle-sharp spikes on the stem. If you think rose thorns are sharp, wait until you’re stabbed by an eggplant spike.