Eggplants—also known as aubergines or brinjals—are warm-weather vegetables that are harvested in mid- to late summer. Eggplant tastes best when harvested young. See more about growing and harvesting these lovely deep purple vegetables—one of our favorites on the grill!
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) grows wild in its homeland of South Asia as a perennial plant, though these warm-season vegetables are treated by most gardeners as annuals. Given their tropical and subtropical heritage, eggplants do require relatively high temperatures, similar to tomatoes and peppers (which, like eggplants, are in the Nightshade family). They grow fastest when temperatures are between 70 and 85°F (21 and 30°C)—and very slowly during cooler weather.
Like tomatoes and peppers, eggplants develop and hang from the branches of a plant that grows several feet in height.
Because they need warm soil, eggplants are usually purchased as 6- to 8-week-old transplants (or, started indoors about two months in advance) to get a head start. Raised beds enriched with composted manure are an ideal growing place for eggplants because the soil warms more quickly. Eggplants are also great for containers and make lovely ornamental borders. In fact, there are quite a few ornamental eggplant varieties available today, whose inedible fruit have attractive variegated patterns.
Though eggplants are usually a beautiful dark purple color, their color can vary, and so can the size and shape—from small- to large-fruited.