Aubergine 'Bambino' is an early dwarf variety ideal for growing in pots or small vegetable patches. The plants grow to a height of around 40cm (16in) tall with a stocky habit. The purple flowers are followed by multiple small purple cocktail type fruits, about 3cm (1 to 1.5in) in diameter.
Aubergine 'Bambino' is an Italian heirloom variety that is easy to grow and ideal if space is limited in a greenhouse, tunnel or outside in a sheltered spot in a container. Sow from January to April for harvesting from July onward. 75 days to harvest.
These smaller fruited varieties are easily grown in containers or flower and vegetable planters. Make sure your container is large enough and keep it well watered. In cooler climates, growing in containers is a good option as they can be moved to a protected spot whenever a cold spell threatens.
Home produced aubergines are wonderful, having so much more flavour than those bought from the shops that they are well worth growing. They are crunchy, juicy and have the characteristic bitterness of eggplant, ideal for making skewers, they are delicious baked, roasted or sautéed.
Aubergine 'Bambino' has been awarded the ProSpecieRara as rare or old varieties. ProSpecieRara is a network partner of the European SAVE Foundation and is a foundation dedicated to preserving the diversity of rare plant varieties and traditional crops from extinction.
- Certified Organic Seed.
This seed has been organically produced. The seed has been harvested from plants that have themselves been grown to recognised organic standards, without the use of chemicals. No treatments have been used, either before or after harvest and the seed is supplied in its natural state.
Sowing: Sow January to April for growing early under glass or sow March to April for planting outdoors
Aubergines, also called eggplants due to the shape of earlier varieties, are essentially perennial plants. However, as they have no frost or cold tolerance and usually die in winter, they are cultivated as an annual, grown from seed every year in cooler regions.
Although they are related, they are much less cold hardy than tomatoes. If you plant your eggplants out before overnight low temperatures are consistently above 10°C (50°F), they will suffer from the chill, and they may never recover and bear fruit.
The aubergine plant is a lush, tropical plant that in a warm season can be very productive, especially under glass, outdoors they are sensitive to cold winds and heavy rain, and are best grown in large pots which can be moved under glass, if necessary.
Pinch out growing tips when 30cm (12in) high to encourage branching, and stop fruiting side shoots when five to six fruits have set.
Seeds are typically started eight to ten weeks prior to the anticipated frost-free date. Soaking the seeds overnight may help germination.
Sow 6mm (¼in) deep into 9cm pots containing a moist seed compost and cover with just a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite (do not exclude light as this helps germination)
Place in a propagator or warm place, and keep at a constant temperature of 20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F). Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged; germination will take between 8 to 21 days. Transplant seedlings carefully while quite small into 15cm (5in) pots and grow on at 18 to 21°C (65 to 70°F).
For Outdoor Crops:
Acclimatise plants to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days. Plant out into sheltered site when all risk of frost has passed and the soil is warm. Plant 45cm (18in) apart in rows 90 to 120cm (3 to 4ft) apart. Aubergines grow well outside, but need gradual acclimatising to the more varied conditions.
A brilliant tip for this: enclose a block of plants, spaced about 60cm (2ft) apart in each direction, within a box of straw bales. These provide a brilliantly cheap but effective windbreak. If a cold night is forecast, simply drape fleece over the bales and anchor it with bricks.
For Greenhouse Crops:
Grow as above, but transplant into in 20cm (8in) pots or growing bags.
Stake as you would for tomatoes. Provide plenty of water, especially in dry weather.
Black plastic mulch is helps to warm the soil, prevent weeds and conserve moisture.
Feed every 14 days with high potash (tomato) fertiliser once the first fruits have set. Cease feeding when fruits are fully formed. Mist the foliage regularly with tepid water to discourage red spider mite and to help flower set.
The flowers are relatively unattractive to bees and the first blossoms often do not set fruit. Hand pollination will improve the set of the first blossoms. Tap flowers daily to assist pollination. Remove the main tip/growing point when plants are 30cm (12in) high.
Harvest: 75 days to harvest
First harvests can be made from the early sowings from July onwards. Your Aubergines will taste best when young, start harvesting when the fruits reach one third of their full growth. They are ready once the skins turn glossy. Once the outside skin turns dull they are past their prime and will contain lots of seeds.
Always cut the fruit from the plants never attempt to pull or twist them off as this generally results in them tearing and damaging the plant. Harvest at their desired size, while fruits are shiny and young but not too firm to the touch, cut just above the calyx. Harvest regularly or plants will need further support to support the weight of the fruit.
Pick fruits before the skin loses its gloss, a symptom of over-ripeness but keep in mind that the fruits need to continue growing far past market maturity if you want to save seeds.
The aubergine is a tender perennial plant and are usually planted as an annual. If would need a frost-free winter to make it through to the following year and could only survive the winter outdoors in the most favourable conditions.
If trying to overwinter your plants outdoors, the base of the plant should be winter-covered with straw or similar to protect against the cold. If there is access to a greenhouse, it is an excellent place for aubergine plants.
The fruits can be stored for about four days in a cool room or a week in the refrigerator. Freezing is the best method for longer home preservation, blanched and frozen eggplant will keep for six months.
At seed maturity, eggplant fruits generally change colour, taking on a yellow or brownish cast, and their glossy skins become dull. The seeds are ripe after the colour change (white fruits turn golden yellow, purple fruits turn brown and green fruits turn yellow-green). Their flesh will soften and ripe fruits easily separate from the plant when pulled. If the fruits do not ripen outside, they can also be stored in a warm place until the colour changes.
Cleaning and Processing: For a small quantity of seeds, scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon and rinse with water. Allow seeds to dry in coffee filters. For large quantities seeds can be extracted by cubing the fruits and processing them in a food processor with a small volume of water to make a slurry of seeds and flesh. Use a dough blade instead of a chopping blade so that seed damage does not occur. After blending, pour the seed slurry into a larger container and add more water. Agitating the watery mash will dislodge seeds from the pulp and allow the viable seeds to settle to the bottom of the container. Repeated decanting will remove most of the pulp and any immature seeds. The mature seeds that remain can then be transferred to a strainer and rinsed with a strong stream of cool water. Immediately after rinsing, seeds should be spread in a thin layer on screens or coffee filters to dry in a warm, well-ventilated space.
Store dry seeds in cool, dark, and dry place in an airtight container. When correctly stored in these conditions, eggplant seeds will remain viable for 4 to 6 years.
The aubergine has become popular with our more adventurous changes in diet and although we think of aubergines as being a vegetable they are technically a fruit. This is because the aubergine we eat is the ripened ovary of the flower.
Other fruits disguised as vegetables include the tomato, peppers, courgette and closely related to the courgette, the cucumber, pumpkin and squash.
Despite being a relative novelty to our gardens, the Aubergine has been cultivated in China as early as the fourth and fifth centuries BC and was grown in India and Myanmar (Burma) around the same time. The dark purple varieties we are most familiar with were originally imported to Europe from India, through the Moorish (Arab) influence in Southern Spain by the seventh century AD.
Once it had landed in Europe, the French name, aubergine most probably (from the Catalan 'alberginia') was widely adopted. The common name Eggplant is derived from the various 18th century European cultivars that were oval shaped and resembled hen and goose eggs.
When eggplants arrived they looked nothing like the purple, pear-shaped types you see in grocery stores year-round. A description in a book from 1597 explains the name: the plant was described as being “of the bigness of a swans egge, and sometimes much greater, of a white colour, sometimes yellow, sometimes browne.”
Also referred to as Melongene or Guinea Squash. Brinjal is also a less common name used for eggplants, mainly used by South Asians such as Indians and Sri Lankans.
In fact there are a number of differently-shaped aubergines, ranging from small and round through to long and thin and large and fat. And though supermarket varieties are confined to dark purple, there are far more exiting colours available to the home grower, including fruit that are variously white, yellow, striped pink, orange and red.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 10 Seeds Common Name Eggplant, Heritage (Italian) Other Common Names Apple of Love, Poor Man's Caviar Other Language Names Brinjal, Melongene, Guinea Squash Family Solanaceae Genus Solanum Species melongena Cultivar Patio Baby Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Height 40 to 50cm (16 to 20in) Spread 50cm (20cm) Spacing Outdoors: Plant 45cm (18in) apart in rows 90 to 120cm (3 to 4ft) apart.
Greenhouse: Transplant into in 20cm (8in) pots or growing bags.
Position Full Sun Time to Sow January to April for growing under glass or March to April for planting outdoors Germination 8 to 21 days at 20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F) Harvest Harvest at their desired size, but while fruits are still shiny and young. Time to Harvest 78 Days Notes Cultivated as an Annual