How to Grow: Culture of eggplant is similar to peppers. (See Pepper Cultural Notes.) Start seeds 8-10 weeks before setting outside, set out 1-2 weeks after your last frost-free date. Don't rush the season because cold-shock can stunt the seedlings. Space plants at 24" in equidistant spacing, or 20" apart in rows 36" apart.
Fruit-Set: Flowers may not set fruit during exceptionally hot weather. Mature plants have good vigor in fall, so cover plants on frosty nights for 1-2 weeks to extend the harvest season.
Harvest: Keep well picked to keep plants producing. Small fruits have the best eating quality. Fruits are ripe when the skin appears glossy and fruit is resilient to thumb pressure.
Cooking: Steamed and pureed eggplant is a great tomato paste substitute (really!).
Pests: Control of flea beetles on young seedlings is essential. Pyrethrum and rotenone are effective chemical controls, or use the following non-chemical method: Harden off seedlings on a table at least 3' off the ground. (Very little flea beetle damage occurs at this height.) After the seedlings have been hardened off, transplant seedlings under 1 gallon plastic milk bottles and leave off the lid. Leave the plants under the bottles as long as possible. Young seedlings may also be grown under row cover for a month or until flowering starts.
Diseases: Avoid growing on soil that has previously grown tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or especially eggplants for the past three years.
Note: Days to maturity are from transplant date.
Seed Savers: Isolate varieties by a minimum of 150' for home use. For pure seed isolate a minimum of 1/8 mile.
Packet: 0.25 g unless otherwise stated (about 54-88 seeds, depending on variety) sows 60-100' of transplants.