Other than tomatoes, one of my favorite vegetables is eggplant.
That’s right, eggplant. Solanum melongena. Aubergine.
I usually grow three or four plants of eggplant in my vegetable garden and enjoy one or two summer meals with fried eggplant, tomato slices, fresh green beans, and my own homegrown sweet corn. It’s a happy day here at May Dreams Gardens when I can harvest all four of these vegetables on the same day and eat them together for one meal.
Those three or four eggplant plants will generally produce way more eggplant than I can eat, so I try to give the rest of the eggplant away. I say “try” because most people don’t want the eggplant. I don’t think they know how to fix it or they don’t like the taste of it.
I do like the taste of eggplant, so I should figure out other ways to fix it, other than frying it. One of my co-workers keeps mentioning a few recipes for baked dishes that include eggplant as a main ingredient, so maybe I’ll get those from her in exchange for some eggplant.
This year I’m growing only one variety, called ‘Dusky’. I chose ‘Dusky’ over ‘Black Beauty’, which is what I usually plant, because it is supposed to be ready to harvest in 63 days versus 83 days for ‘Black Beauty’, and be prolific. I’m not so concerned with how many eggplant I get, as long as I get a few, but to harvest earlier seems like a good thing.
I suspect no matter what variety I grow it will get attacked by little black flea beetles right after I plant it in the garden, leaving the leaves full of little holes and spots. I do nothing to control these beetles because I still end up with a few eggplant in spite of them, and my goal is just to get a few anyway.
I did read somewhere that good crop rotation helps control flea beetles. Good crop rotation helps control a lot of diseases and insect infestations in the garden, and I try to practice that whenever I can.
By “good crop rotation”, this source, which I can no longer find, said not to plant the eggplant in the same place where eggplant has been grown for the last four years.
My gardening records are good, but not that good, so who knows where all I’ve planted eggplant in my raised beds these past few years? I can only remember where I planted them last year. I won’t plant these eggplant in that raised bed or any other bed where I grew tomatoes, peppers, or potatoes. Along with eggplant, they are all members of the Solanaceae family of plants, and thus are likely to be susceptible to the same diseases and insects.
I just remembered that last year the rabbits ate off my newly planted eggplant seedlings, just like they bit off some pepper plants, so I had to replace my eggplant seedlings with a few store bought plants. That’s a bad memory that I did my best to suppress, but writing this post brought it to mind again.
That’s not going to happen this year! I’m on to those rabbits! I’m going to liberally sprinkle cayenne pepper on and around the eggplant, along with the peppers, to keep the bunnies away until the plants get big enough to fend for themselves. Maybe the cayenne pepper will also keep the flea beetles from doing their damage? Time will tell.
I just know that if I am going to the trouble of sowing seeds indoors ahead of time to get a variety of eggplant that I might be able to harvest nearly three weeks earlier than normal, I don’t want to risk having a rabbit indiscriminately bite the plants off and leave them laying on the ground like last year.
Trying new things each year, like cayenne pepper on eggplant to keep the rabbits away, is part of the fun of gardening. Even after over two decades of having my own vegetable garden, every year I always find some new variety to try, a new challenge to overcome, or a new trick to try to keep the rabbits and insects away so I can enjoy the harvest.
Who else will be enjoying a harvest of eggplants from their garden this summer? Do you have any eggplant recipes to share?