Thursday, February 18, 2016

End of Season Review - Eggplants


When I was growing up, eggplant was pretty close to the top of my “veg I don’t like” list.  In my 20's, however, I discovered that my issue wasn’t with the eggplant but the preparation - eggplant parmigiana - which was essentially the only way my mom ever prepared it.

The lightbulb moment came when I was at a Thai restaurant and one of the dishes was a curry that contained big pieces of Asian eggplant.  No one was more surprised than I when that turned out to be my favourite part of the meal.

The two small ones (lower middle) are Slim Jim, the rest are Ping Tung
I grew eggplant for the first time this past season.  For some reason, I had always assumed that it was difficult to grow, perhaps because I associate eggplant with dishes that are from warmer climates.  I’ve also never known anyone that’s grown eggplant, which lends to its air of mystery, in my mind anyhow.

I decided right off the bat that I was going to stay away from the large black eggplants that are typically found on supermarket shelves.  I much prefer the Asian types which have far few seeds and whose skin is so tender that I don’t even bother peeling them.

Ping Tung Eggplant

I decided to try two varieties – Ping Tung, which seems to be the most popular Asian eggplant variety grown by home gardeners, and Slim Jim, a small Italian eggplant.

Slim Jim Eggplant

The season started off with a bit of hiccup when I had issues with germination on the Ping Tung.  After starting a few more seeds, I did eventually end up with 2 plants for each variety, which is what I wanted.

Eggplant seedlings - 6-7 weeks
The seedlings were transplanted outside in early June & things seemed to be going ok until mid-August.  It was at that point that I noticed a couple of the plants looking a bit wilted, especially the Slim Jim.  I had recently read a post that Michelle had written about verticillium wilt and the symptoms I was seeing looked very similar.

Wilted leaves with rolled edges - one possible symptom
of Verticillium wilt
At this stage, I’m unsure as to whether this was the problem or not.  I didn’t have ready access to the Actinovate that Michelle used in her attempt to stay ahead of the issue, but my plants still managed to chug along until the end of the season, not really getting that much worse in the weeks that followed.  In addition, peppers were growing right alongside the eggplant and they were completely unaffected.

Other than the verticillium wilt scare, the plants did relatively well, although I did find that they were a bit slow going, with the first harvests not being until late August, early September.  As for varieties, I loved the Ping Tung which is exactly what I think an eggplant should be – slender, tender skin, very few seeds and no bitterness.




The Slim Jim was another story – I found it to be very seedy and the eggplants took longer to mature, even though they were much smaller then Ping Tung.


Overall Impressions and Plan for Next Year

I’m rather happy with my first attempt at growing eggplant and plan to do much better this coming season.

Since I found the plants grew rather slowly, I've decided to sow them earlier this year - I've slated them into the calendar for the end of February.  Earlier sowing is not always an effective strategy for obtaining larger plants that produce sooner, but I’m a big fan of trying things out for myself before dismissing them out of hand.

As for varieties, Ping Tung is here to stay, but Slim Jim is out.  I've chosen another Asian variety to replace it with - Thai Long Green - which looks like a green version of the Ping Tung.  I also had a very pretty Italian eggplant in my online cart but somewhere along the line it missed the checkout.  Oh well - it's too late now, so that one will have to wait for next year.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

16 comments:

  1. Eggplant success in Ontario! Wow! You're good! Eggplant is also awfully good brushed with oil and baked or roasted, my favorite way. Next time you have time to browse, try the online eggplant pages for Kitazawa Seed. They have Chinese, Japanese and Thai varieties. Some are wilt resistant and some are early maturing.

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    1. Thanks Jane - I've heard of Kitazawa Seed but haven't purchased anything from them yet. I just did a quick browse and boy, their selection is unbelievable! 20 varieties of Asian eggplant; and the bok choy (another favourite), wow! I can see myself going a little crazy there - good thing that seeds normally last a few years as I doubt I would have room in the garden for all the varieties I'd want to try! They don't seem to ship to Canada, but I think this is a case where picking up the order at a cross-border depot would be well worth the effort.

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  2. The only ones I have ever grown were also Ping Tung Long. Like you, I was not a big fan of aubergines, and my wife detests them, so having grown them once just to prove I could do it, I have not grown them again. They are supposed to be difficult to grow, so perhaps we both benefitted from Beginner's Luck!

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    1. And here I was thinking that my impression of them as being difficult to grow was all in my head. I really hope it's not beginners luck - I suppose we will find out this season!

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  3. It took me three attempts to get an aubergine plant to fruit, once I had, I never bothered growing them again. They're not a favourite veg in our house, I think it was the challenge that interested me most about growing them.

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    1. Well, now I'm really wondering if Mark wasn't right with his beginners luck comment! I'm staying away from veg that I perceive as being too much of a challenge to even attempt right now (like celery and brussels sprouts). I guess it's a good thing that I didn't put eggplant on that list!

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  4. Your basket full of eggplants is just lovely. I find eggplants and their plants incredibly beautiful, it's great that you like eating them now.

    Thai Long Green eggplant is an earlier eggplant than Ping Tung in my experience, but most of my early green ones got eaten by a rabbit when I grew them in 2013. Flea beetles are voracious in our area so they do much better under floating row covers for us, which I'm going back to this year.

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    1. They are gorgeous, aren't they - the flowers were so much larger and prettier than I expected.

      I've heard of people having issues with flea beetles on their eggplant. It seems that sometimes these types of issues don't happen until the 2nd year of growing something...it's as if the pests didn't realize there was a buffet close by. Fingers crossed that they don't find my beds this summer!

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  5. Love the PingTung long eggplant for its taste, and also love the white long version as well - very sweet and not bitter at all. Though have to keep colorado beetles and flea beetle from demolishing young plants.

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    1. I'm actually quite surprised at the variety of eggplant I've seen in the catalogues. The white ones are so pretty - I'll have to give them a try at some point.

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  6. Ping Tung is the only one I grow. I found the long Asian eggplants seem a little more resistant to flea beetles, which make growing eggplant here impossible without row cover. Not very productive, I'm lucky to get 2-3 fruit per plant. Look for recipes for roasted eggplant salad tossed with almonds and goat cheese.

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    1. Ping Tung is definitely in my garden to stay. It's nice to have a real winner to compare new additions to. That salad sounds amazing! Looks like I'll be expanding my eggplant repetoire this year :)

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  7. We grow a variety called Jackpot that produces smaller plants and the fruit can be picked whilst small it left to grow bigger. We grow ours in the greenhouse on the shelving and they are worth it for the attractive leaves and flowers as well as the fruit.

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    1. That's interesting that you are able to pick the eggplants at different stages of growth. A couple of the Slim Jim I picked and thought were mature were definitely under-ripe.

      And I was unexpectedly enchanted by the flowers - I had never seen them in person before.

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  8. I am a big fan of all kinds of eggplants, my favorite treatment being to grill them. I'll also put in a plug for Kitazawa. They have an amazing assortment of veggies. I'll also put in a pitch for hybrid eggplants, esp. in a cooler weather area. They can help avoid the disease problem, though not eliminate it. Dancer and Fairy Tale are two of my favorites, both non bitter and with few seeds.

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    1. I've roasted lots of eggplant, but I'm not sure I've ever grilled it...I'll have to give that a try next year.

      And I've taken a peek at Dancer & Fairy Tale & think I would like them. Fairy Tale was on the list (I think from a review you did?) and I've added Dancer - thanks!

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