The eggplant (Solanum melongena) got its name because the fruit of early varieties were small and white as eggs. Today, you can choose among many different eggplant varieties, including the Early Black eggplant variety, one of the heirloom eggplant varieties. The stunning fruit of this variety is also egg-shaped but it is such a dark shade of purple that you will swear it is black. The stems and leaves are very dark too, but the flowers are a gorgeous purple.
History of Early Black Eggplant
Although gardeners around the world are enjoying the many different varieties of eggplants available in commerce, Americans have never really grown as excited about eggplants as by other vegetables, like tomatoes. This may be in part because eggplants requires warm summer nights in order to fruit, or because of their vulnerability to pests, like the destructive flea beetle, and diseases, like deadly fusarium and verticillium wilt. The eggplant is native to India, but it wended its way to the Asian countries very early, about 3 A.D. It hopped over to Europe some 8 years later, but did not receive the warm reception it had in Asia. Europeans thought that the plant, as a member of the deadly nightshade family, was poisonous. Tomatoes were also considered poisonous for some years. Eggplants were brought into this country by Thomas Jefferson, then an experimental biologist. The fruits were considered of ornamental value only until the last century. You have Japan to thank for the Early Black Egg variety of eggplant. It is an early maturing variety, exceptionally tolerant of the flea beetle. The dark, shiny fruit of Early Black Egg eggplants should be ready to eat about 65 days after germination.
Growing Early Black Egg Eggplants
Despite requiring warm night air to fruit, eggplants really aren't very difficult to grow in your garden if your summers are warm. Grow eggplants in fertile, dark, loose soil with 2 inches of organic compost blended into the top 6 inches of soil. You can start the plants indoors four to six weeks before the final frost of springtime or outdoors in mid-May. They need at least half an inch of water twice a week, moderate fertilizer and regular weeding. Harvest the fruit while the skin remains shiny.
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Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.
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