Aubergine

Why Grow Aubergine?

The aubergine is a species of nightshade and are botanically classed a berry as its’ fruits contains many soft seeds which are edible; although, being related to the tobacco plant, they do have a bitter taste. Other members of the nightshade family include both potatoes and tomatoes.

Believed to originate from Southern Asia, the first known record of aubergines is in an ancient Chinese text written in 544, the first record of them being grown in England is from the late 16th century, in London. Early European cultivars in the 18th century tended to be yellow/white and resembled chicken or goose eggs, hence they are also commonly known as the eggplant in the USA, Canada and Australia.

Aubergines now come in a variety of colours, sizes and shapes, purple to cream, up to 500g (18oz), and oval, round or pear shaped.

Quick Facts
Botanical Name : Solanum melongena
Sowing Time : Heated Greenhouse – January
Unheated Greenhouse – February
For outdoors – Sow indoors early March, plant out early June
Harvest Time : August -Mid October
Hardiness : Not hardy – Protect From Frost
Position : Full Sun, Sheltered from strong winds
Soil Type : Well drained and fertile
Average Plant Height : 60 -75cm / 24 – 30in
Spacing : 60-75cm / 24-30in
Spread : 60cm / 24in
Soil and Preparation

Aubergines, being cultivated from a sub-tropical plant, need plenty of moisture and sun, generally it is more successful to grow them under glass, unless you have a warm, sheltered site. Grown outside they require well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position. In the greenhouse they should be grown in 25cm (9in) pots or 3 plants to a grow bag. They will happily share a greenhouse with cucumbers, but are not so good with tomatoes and peppers which tend to need drier conditions.

Seeds and Sowing

Sow in gentle heat 16-21C (60-70F) from January to March, soaking the seed for 24 hours first will aid germination. Prick out into small pots before planting out into well prepared beds when the plants are 8-10cm (3-4”) tall; spacing them about 60-75cm (24-30”) apart. If you are planting outside, ensure all risk of frost has passed. Aubergines can grow into quite large plants, so support is needed.

Caring for your Crop

Water well to ensure the plants do not dry out which will cause buds and leaves to drop. In hot weather regular misting will encourage the fruit to set and reduce the risk of red spider mites. Once the fruit has set feed once every two weeks with a high potassium liquid fertiliser, such as Tomorite.

Stake and tie in plants as they grow. When they reach 30cm (12in) high, remove the growing tip from the main stem.

Harvesting

Harvesting is approximately 20 weeks after sowing, when the fruits have reached their full colour with a good gloss, but before the skin gets wrinkled.

Storage

Aubergines will usually keep for up to 2 weeks when stored in a polythene bag in the fridge.