They come in hundreds of different varieties ranging in colors from white to green, orange, red and purple. In shape and size, they range from pea-sized, round and small, long and slender, to very large. The smaller round varieties are sweet and mild, along with the long slender varieties. The large purple varieties tend to have a strong acidic taste. Try growing your own to get the freshest flavor.
In short-season areas, start seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before your last spring frost date. Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep in a seed starter mix. Place in a well-lit, warm area such as a south facing windowsill or under grow lamps.
You will want to ease the seedlings into the garden by hardening them off. Start the process ten to fourteen days before you plan to transplant by bringing the seedlings outdoors to a shady location. Move them into the sunlight for short periods of time each day, and gradually increase the length of exposure. Decrease watering but do not let the seedlings wilt. This process prepares them for outdoor life and will make them hardy. Once hardened off, transplant the seedlings in the garden in full sun, and keep them moist and fertilized.
Avoid planting where eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers grew the previous year to reduce the risk of disease. Eggplants generally do not have many pests, but keep a lookout for cutworms, aphids, potatoes beetles, spider mites, and the black flea beetle that can eat hundreds of small holes in the leaves and damage the plants.
Eggplants will mature in 70-85 days after being transplanted. Harvest the fruits when they are firm, glossy, and slightly immature. They will be tender, and the flavor will be mild. The fruits will only keep for a few days. They are a great source of protein, Vitamin C, calcium, and potassium. Prepare them by roasting, baking, or battering and frying. There are many wonderful recipes for eggplant.