I have a lot of experience growing eggplant. My dad loved it. So does my partner. I didn't used to be a big fan, but I've learned to like it in small bite sized chunks in my vegan dishes. It's packed with nutrition and it really does have a nice flavor once you get past the meaty texture. Eggplant isn't terribly hard to grow. Still, like most veggies, there is a right and a wrong time to harvest it. Here's some tips that might help.
Before the harvest
You can't pick eggplant if you don't grow it first. Eggplant is a hot weather vegetable. Start seeds indoors just a couple weeks before your tomatoes. Plant outdoors well after frost danger has subsided. The general rule is 12 inches apart. Eggplant requires good drainage and consistent watering. Take heed of this and your eggplants will be ripe for the picking in no time at all.
Most people are accustomed to buying the variety of eggplant known as "Black Beauty". These are dark purple, almost black in color. Hence the name. Actually, eggplant come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. They really do brighten up the garden. When a Black Beauty eggplant is ready, it will be shiny and reflect the light like a piece of black glass.
Size and shape
As I mentioned before, the sizes and shapes of eggplant vary. With all varieties of eggplant, the flavor is best when picked young. Size doesn't matter as much as the shine that tells you the eggplant is ripe for the picking. As for the Black Beauty, I recommend it be picked when just a little larger than your hand.
When picking eggplant be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands. Most eggplants are thorn bearing. Hold the eggplant lightly in the palm of your hand. Check to make sure it's ripe by looking for that glossy shine. Cut the stem about an inch above the eggplant with sharp scissors. This keeps the plant from being damaged so it can continue producing.
Portions of this article were previously published on a now closed Yahoo! property.