WHITE JAPANESE EGGPLANT (Solanum melongena, v. esculentum) is a beautiful contrast to the more colorful choices. Japanese eggplants have less water than larger varieties, so they are easier to prepare and keep longer. The flesh is meaty, firm and sweet. Plants are upright and sturdy, bearing fruits that are up to 7" long. Well suited to container growing. 60 days from transplant. 10 seeds.
ABOUT EGGPLANT: Fresh grown eggplant is an altogether heavenly experience - nothing like the overgrown and tired versions you see in the grocery which taste like old athletic socks. As a member of the nightshade family, eggplant was centuries overcoming the fear that it was as poisonous as its cousins. That is why it acquired the nickname "mad apple." And it is true that a very immature eggplant contains toxins that can make you sick and you should never eat the foliage. With origins many believe trace to ancient China, the eggplant traveled to Europe courtesy of the Moor invasion of the 6th Century. But it was not until the 17th Century French Enlightenment that eggplant came into popularity, served pretty much as we eat it today. President Andrew Johnson claimed it as a favorite.
NUTRITIONAL: I used to think of eggplant as nothing more than a cheese delivery vehicle, but guess what? It is a wonderful source of important nutrition AND a dieter's best friend! Low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol but high in dietary fiber, eggplant is packed with folate, potassium, manganese, Vitamins C and K, Thiamin, Niacin, B-6, Panthothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper. It is so good for dieters in fact, that folks trying to GAIN weight are advised not to eat too many eggplants!
MEDICINAL: All members of the nightshade family - which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and all peppers except black pepper - contain some level of a toxin called solanine, an alkaloid that can caue diarrhea, heart failure, headache and vomiting in sensitive people. But if you are not sensitive there are wonderful benefits to be had in this gourmand delight. Eating eggplant can reduce swelling, reduce bleeding, comfort hemorrhoids and treat dysentery. High in bioflavonoids, it belongs in your cancer fighting arsenal. Here are two more interesting medicinal uses -- raw eggplant applied topically for scorpion bites. And a compress made of infused eggplant for frostbite!
GROWING TIPS: Eggplants love warm weather - don't stress out your seedlings by planting too early you will only set back fruiting. Plant flowers nearby to encourage pollination and if fruit set is heavy, give some support to keep the fruits from the ground - a small stake will do. Eggplants are heavy feeders that require regular watering and respond very well to organic compost and fish emulsions. Keep the fruit picked so production continues. Use pruning shears and watch out for the spiny stems on some varities. Eggplants are perennials and can be raised indoors with the aid of a good grow light and heat mat (or warm room) provided you play pollinator using a small artist's brush.
SEED SAVING: Eggplant seeds are contained mostly in the bottle of the plant and are best culled from very overripe fruits. Since letting fruits go to seed may halt production of other fruits, wait until it is toward the end of the season before you let your eggplants go to seed. Then slit and look for the darker seeds, remove, wash and dry thoroughly before storing.