To the professionals, it is Solanum melongena. To the rest of us it is either an Aubergine or Eggplant depending on the side of the Atlantic we reside on. The aubergine plant has large, mid-green, coarsely lobed leaves, with a spiny stem, and while the Aubergine is grown primarily for its fruit, it still boasts a delicate beauty when in bloom. Its flowers are small, with five-petalled blossoms usually purple in colour and with eye-catching bright yellow stamens. Some cultivars produce the fruit early in season, but it is highly useful as garden produce, and is at its best when grow under glass.
Aubergine 'Giotto F1' produces rounded oval fruits of a glossy dark violet colour. It is an excellent variety for indoor or outdoor cultivation. This disease resistant variety also has good resistance to handling marks and oxidation when cut. The plants are also resistant to Verticiluim albo-atrum (Va) and Verticilium dahliae (Vd).
The plants grow to a height of 55cm (22in) and a spread of 45cm (18in). They are well suited to growing in containers or in open ground in a warm sunny location and will grow easily in a greenhouse or tunnel. The upright foliage aids ventilation, which is especially useful when grown under plastic. The purple-black, smooth shiny fruits mature in just 60 to 65 days from transplant.
Sowing: Sow January to April for growing under glass or March to April for planting outdoors
Whilst Aubergine is a Tender Perennial, it is cultivated as an Annual.
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 “just cover” with a 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 (68-77°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 18-21°C (65-70°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, but while fruits are still shiny and young. 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.
Freezing is the best method for home preservation.
Harvest before seeds become mature and when colour is uniformly dark.
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 10 Seeds Common Name Eggplant Other Common Names Apple of Love, Poor Man's Caviar Other Language Names Brinjal, Melongene, Guinea Squash Family Solanaceae Genus Solanum Species melongena Cultivar Giotto F1 Hardiness Tender Perennial Height 70cm (28cm) Spread 60cm (24cm) 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