The very best Eggplant to Plant
There are many more sizes, shapes and colors of eggplant varieties than the familiar large purple eggplant found in most supermarkets. Deciding which is best is a subjective matter. However, some varieties are particularly recommended from one of the large, little, fat, slim, purple, green and white cultivars. The sun-loving eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a perennial which can be grown as an annual in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10.
Best for American and Asian Cuisine
The large American eggplants are good for cutting and layering in casseroles, but they’re more seedy than the smaller Oriental varieties. They may be oblong or shaped like a world and also have purple skin and a green calyx at the stem end. Italian varieties, also satisfied to western recipes, which are thicker and shorter than the American varieties and also have a green calyx. Asian varieties have firmer flesh and therefore are more suited to stir fries and grilling. The purple-skinned Japanese varieties are slender and elongated or possess a tear-drop form and a green calyx. The Chinese varieties are similar in look to the Japanese varieties but are slightly less purple and possess a greenish-purple calyx.
Best Oval or Oblong-Shaped Purple Varieties
Horticulturalists in the University of Illinois and the University of California-Davis recommend Black bell (S. melongena “Black Bell”) which matures in 68 days along with the marginally smaller “Black beauty” that takes 80 days to mature.
Finest Asian Varieties
Horticulturalists at the University of California-Davis and North Carolina State University recommend “Ichiban,” a dark purple Japanese variety that grow up to 12 inches long and also yields large crops, maturing in 66 days. Also recommended are the deep purple “Japanese Millionaire” that rises up to 8 inches long, maturing in 54 days and “Little Fingers,” a slim eggplant that rises 4 to 7 inches long and matures in 68 days.
Best Non-Purple Variety
Horticulturalists at North Carolina and gardeners and growers in Cornell University’s Vegetable Review Program recommend the “Italian Wild bicolor,” popular with European growers, a bell-shaped eggplant 6 to 8 inches long that’s white with rose pink vertical stripes.
The growing requirements will be the same for all eggplant cultivars. Their seeds germinate at 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re optimally started indoors 6 to 10 weeks before putting 2 to 3 weeks following the last expected frost. All eggplants are best planted 3 to 4 feet apart and staked or caged to store them erect and they need about 1 inch of water each week. Hot weather with a great deal of sunlight is necessary for good eggplant creation; a cold spell will prevent their growth and lower returns.