Aubergine 'Black Beauty' is a heirloom variety, introduced about 1910 and has long been popular with home gardeners. It is early to mature and gives and abundant crop of tasty fruits that are clear of the ground.
This excellent quality variety produces sturdy plants that give high yields of 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) glossy, purple-black, pear-shaped fruit. The plants grow to a height of around 120cm (4ft).
Black Beauty will crop in 78 days, the fruit flesh is smooth; as in the related tomato, the numerous seeds are soft and edible along with the rest of the fruit. The thin skin is also edible, so that the eggplant need not be peeled.
It is early and prolifically sets huge fruit up to 680grams (1½lb). Three plants will keep a family of four in aubergines from July until late autumn. A popular and reliable garden favorite.
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. Harvest at their desired size, while fruits are still shiny and young but not too firm to the touch. Fruits are typically cut from the vine just above the calyx owing to the semi-woody stems.
Pick 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.
Eggplant 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.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 200 Seeds Common Name Eggplant. Heritage (USA 1910) Other Common Names Apple of Love, Poor Man's Caviar Other Language Names Brinjal, Melongene, Guinea Squash Family Solanaceae Genus Solanum Species melongena Cultivar Black Beauty Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Height 120cm (4ft). 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.
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