Department of Horticulture New York State Horticulture Study Guide for Youth 4-H Logo


Flowers &
Indoor Plants

Fruits & Nuts



Special Topics



Cornell University

Solanum melongena
(sole-ann-um mell-on-gee-nah)

Click on thumbnails for larger image.

What about it?

The eggplant is a member of the Nightshade family. Its close relatives are the tomato, potato, and pepper. Originally, eggplants were a creamy white color. The characteristically oblong or oval shape, along with the white color, explains the origins of the name "egg-plant." There are other varieties that come in shades of green, purple, pink, white, and almost-black.

What is it used for?

Eggplant has long been a staple food in the diets of the Mfddle East. The entire fruit can be eaten.

Where does it grow? How do we grow it?

Eggplants require very rich soil and a lot of fertilization. They are also a warm weather crop and like temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees F. Mulch to retain moisture and to keep weeds down, but don't apply the mulch until after the soil has had a chance to warm up. This usually takes about a month after the last frost Place plants in a well-drained spot in full sunshine. Give the eggplant 1 inch of water a week. Prune the "suckers' at the base of the plant early to encourage early and abundant fruiting. Eggplants take 2 to 3 months to fruit.

What are its primary problems?

Watch out for flea beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and spider mites. Potentially, Verticillium wilt, Phomopsis blight, and anthracnose could become problems.

How do we propagate it?

Begin plants indoors 2 months before the last frost. Place plants outside 20 inches apart.

How do we harvest and store it?

Harvest eggplants when they are 4-5 inches long. Don't let the skin become dulled - that is an indication of over-ripeness. Also, ripe eggplants are somewhat soft and pressing them will leave a temporary indentation. When picking, you will need a sharp knife or some type of shears to cut the hard, spiny stems. Frequent picking will stimulate the production of new fruit.

Eggplants can be stored in a humid place at a temperature above 45 degrees F for almost 2 weeks. Colder than this will cause chilling damage and temperatures warmer than 60 degrees will encourage water loss.

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Copyright, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University.