Eggplants are warm-weather vegetables that can be seeded indoors about eight weeks before your last spring frost. Learn more about growing and harvesting this beautiful purple vegetable – one of our favorites on the grill!
Eggplants (Solanum melongena) grow wild in South Asia as a perennial, but this warm-season vegetable is treated as an annual by most North American gardeners. Because of their tropical and subtropical heritage, eggplants require relatively high temperatures, much like tomatoes and peppers (which, like eggplants, belong to the nightshade family). They grow fastest when temperatures are between 21 and 30°C – and very slowly in cooler weather.
Like tomatoes and peppers, eggplants develop and hang from the branches of a plant that can grow several feet tall.
Because they need warm soil, eggplants are usually bought as 6 to 8 week old transplants (or planted indoors about 2 months in advance) to give them a head start. Raised beds enriched with compost manure are an ideal growing place for eggplants, as the soil warms up faster. Eggplants are also great for containers and make beautiful decorative borders. In fact, today there are quite a number of decorative varieties of eggplant, the inedible fruits of which have attractive colorful patterns.
Although eggplant fruits are usually a beautiful deep purple in color, they can also be white, pink, green, black, or variegated purple-white. Their size and shape also varies, ranging from the large, pumpkin-shaped eggplants you commonly find in stores to the more exotic, slender Japanese eggplants.