Eggplant, a tender annual, will grow well anywhere tomatoes or peppers thrive. It does best in a warm, rich soil, planted after any danger of a late frost has past. With recent interest in eggplant varieties, spawned by the renaissance of heirloom vegetables, many different colors, shapes and sizes can be found as seeds and bedding plants. There is a virtual rainbow of eggplant available for your garden.
From the purple varieties, long, narrow Japanese-style eggplants are faster maturing (around 60 days from transplanting into the garden) than globe Mediterranean types (at 70 days). Yet another purple variety is especially popular in Hyderabad Indian dishes, and its egg size fruits mature quickly. Middle Eastern markets here use vast quantities of locally grown varieties for many dishes and in dips and sauces.
The novel white "Casper" or multi-colored "Easter egg" varieties are similar in growing time at around 60 days, are edible, and make a beautiful centerpiece arrangement. There are striped eggplants, pink, green and even orange eggplants of different shades.
Here in Minnesota, Hmong farmers bring tiny, pea size bitter eggplants to the farmer's markets. Sold by the pint or quart, they are quickly sauteed, skin and all, and added to vegetable and meat curries. These come into season around the end of July in the Twin Cities area.
Wild eggplant originated in southeast Asia or in India, already existing in both locations four thousand years ago. It has since entrenched itself into cuisines around the world, even after being considered poisonous initially in Europe.
When it is grown from seed in a moderate climate, it must be started indoors in late winter so it can reach maturity after being transplanted outside in late spring. Most nurseries sell young plants ready to bloom. They can be transplanted right into the prepared garden bed. They get snapped up quickly here, especially the more exotic varieties.
The lobed green leaves dusted with violet veins, and the six petaled sturdy flowers are as beautiful as the eggplants themselves, and the whole plant is a nice specimen for an artistic garden, besides being a tasty addition to the dinner table.