Eggplant or eggfruit (Solanum melongena) belongs to the Solanaceae family, which includes crops such as tomatoes, potatoes and capsicums. It’s not as popular as its cousin tomato, but eggplant has many culinary uses in a range of cuisines. Overseas names for eggplant include aubergine in Europe and brinjal in India. Luckily for West Australians it is easy to grow eggplants in Perth and other parts of the state. The exquisite flavour and versatile nature of home grown eggplants makes them a summer garden essential.
Eggplants come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are attractive bushes which make a stunning addition to any vegetable garden. They love the heat, so they thrive in the Western Australian summers and are reasonably drought tolerant. Plant them in a sunny spot and they’ll reward you with an abundant harvest all summer long.
Supermarket eggplant is available from Western Australian growers throughout the year, mainly from Carnarvon from May to December and the Perth area from January to May.
When to plant eggplant in Perth:
Eggplant is damaged by frost and low temperatures. To produce high yields of quality eggplant fruit, five months of warm to hot weather is needed, with temperatures varying between 21 to 30 degrees Celsius which Perth and ideal location. Cold weather will reduce yields. Strong winds will damage branches and scar the eggplant fruit.
Crops in the Perth metropolitan area should be planted from September to December. Early crops of eggplant can be planted in Perth from late July to September and raised
in cloches. These provide higher air and soil temperatures, and speed up growth, reduce pest problems and give protection from wind, heavy rain and also sand blasting in coastal parts of Perth.
In the northern part of the state in locations such as Carnarvon, eggplants are planted from January to April and July to mid August.
Types of eggplant in Western Australia:
There are many varieties of eggplant with varying shapes and colours, which include purple, white, yellow, green, pink and red varieties.
Eggplant Rosa Bianca – An Italian heirloom of incomparable beauty produces exquisite eggplants with delectable creamy flesh.
Eggplant Black Beauty – Large and glossy, the fruit has a dark purple skin and can weigh up to 1kg.
Eggplant Tsakoniki – A Greek variety, Produces long, slender fruit with a tender texture that will get you in the mood to make moussaka.
Eggplant Ping Tung Long – Productive and fast growing Taiwanese variety ideal for cooler climates or containers.
Eggplant White Egg – Produces beautiful white eggplants. Harvest before they ripen to a bright yellow.
Eggplant Early Long Purple – Early cropping variety means you could have eggplant on the table for Christmas.
Eggplant White Star – These compact plants are suitable for containers or small gardens. Good flavoured fruit with white skin.
How to grow eggplant at home:
Below is a simple eggplant sowing and growing guide to follow for first time growers.
- Sow seeds direct where they are to grow, in a sunny vegie patch, into well-drained soil that’s been enriched with soil improver ideally. Or seedlings can be raised in punnets of seed raising mix and transplanted when they’re around 6-8 cm high. Only transplant seedlings once the risk of frost has passed.
- Seedlings should pop up in around 10 -14 days.
- To encourage quality eggplant fruit development, as soon as the seedlings are established start feeding each week with a fertiliser, which is boosted with extra potassium which promotes flowering and fruit development.
- Water plants regularly to keep the soil moist. Mulch around the root zone to help retain soil moisture. Consistent soil moisture will help reduce the chance of blossom end rot.
- Eggplant fruit can be picked starting from 14 weeks after sowing.
- For best fruit quality, harvest when the skin is smooth and shiny. Cut fruit from the plant using secateurs, leaving 2 cm of stem on the fruit to improve storage.
- Regular harvesting will promote further flowering and fruiting.
- Monitor plants for pests such as whitefly and spider mites.
Planting eggplant in a pot:
Eggplants are quite happy in pots, but choose plants with smaller fruit, such as ‘White Star’ or Lebanese eggplants.
- Choose a pot at least 300mm wide and deep and position in full sun.
- Fill pot with a quality potting mix and ow seeds.
- Feed weekly with liquid plant food.
- A regular harvest promotes new growth.
When to harvest eggplant in Perth:
Eggplant is primarily self-pollinated, but is also partly cross-pollinated by bees. Fruit should be ready for harvesting 9 to 12 weeks from transplanting and about 30 days after flowering. Fruit is edible from one-third grown to full maturity, you can pick the fruit at any stage, depending on your requirements, but is usually picked at two-thirds full size.
Use secateurs to cut the fruit from the plant. The fruits should be firm and glossy. If they start looking dull, they’re past their best. They can still be eaten, but will be slightly more bitter and spongy.
Storing eggplant at home:
If you are curious how long does eggplant last? The answer is it depends on whether it has been stored correctly. To store correctly place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for 3-5 days. If it is too large for the crisper, do not try to force it in; this will damage the skin and cause the eggplant to spoil and decay. Instead, place it on a shelf within the refrigerator.
Eggplant care and common problems:
Eggplants don’t seem to suffer from an enormous amount of pest and disease issues, but, being related to tomatoes and friends, they are susceptible to the same suite of pests and problems. Grubs, spider mites, aphids and crusader bugs are pests to look out for.
Stake plants to keep them from falling over when they become heavy with fruit. Mulch to keep soil lightly moist.
Check out our other how to grow in Perth guides: