Harvesting Eggplant

It looks as though the season of eggplant bounty is nearly upon us, even before the tomatoes are ripe! We have eggplant set on all of the different plants right now, and it looks like it will be a bumper crop.

If you’ve never grown eggplant before, it can be a little tricky to determine the right time to harvest. (Or it can be extremely easy, depending on your viewpoint and what you plan to do with your eggplant.) The reason is that you can eat eggplant at almost any stage from very small to the mature size. The trick comes in 1) knowing the “mature” size of the variety of eggplant you are growing and 2) if you harvest at the mature size, knowing when it has gone past into the really seedy stage.

This ‘Traviata’ eggplant is your classic purple/black Italian type that can get pretty huge. However, you can certainly harvest it at this size if you want and cook them whole or halved.

As the eggplant starts to reach its “mature” size, which you have to research for each variety, you want to watch for two things: glossiness and firmness. This ‘Orient Charm’ eggplant is still nice and glossy, as it should be. If you could reach through the screen and feel the eggplant, it would be firm but with a slight, sponge-y give to it. That’s good!

Where you want to start getting cautious is when the skin gets a very dull color and the fruit becomes hard, almost like an apple. This ‘Millionaire’ eggplant isn’t to that stage yet, but it’s as close as I could find. It isn’t that you can’t eat an overripe eggplant, it’s that it becomes more challenging and less enjoyable. You see, what we consider “ripe” for eggplant is a stage that is botanically immature. A botanically mature eggplant has seeds that are viable, fully developed, and ready to reproduce. Hence, a botanically mature eggplant is usually so full of big, tough seeds that most of us are less interested in eating the seedy thing. (If we were interested in eating it anyway!)

If (or when) we have an eggplant that is overripe in the garden, I’ll be sure to show you a picture. Hopefully we won’t miss picking very many though!

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on July 1, 2013, in Around the Garden, Harvesting & Eating and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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