June 29, 2015

Don't be afraid to try growing eggplants, a member of the nightshade family, in your garden this year. (UrbanFarmOnline.com) 

Eggplants are one of my favorite summer crops to grow each year, but sometimes eggplants get a bad rap. Many folks are turned off from eggplants because they don’t have easy culinary uses for them. Fortunately, the Internet is your friend and a quick search will reveal some great ways to use your bountiful harvest, from classic eggplant parmesan and simple eggplant tomato sauce to pickled eggplants and even eggplant pizza!

Many gardeners are stuck with same mental image of the traditional purple behemoth and surprisingly unaware of the great diversity of eggplant cultivars available on the market today. The following three eggplant varieties are some of my favorite cultivars to grow and can add some fun and unusual colors to your garden.

1. Casper White Eggplant

It’s been suggested that some of the first eggplants to reach Great Britain were ornamental plants that produced small white egg-shaped fruit, which helped give rise to the name eggplant. The Casper varietal produces ivory to nearly white, elongated eggplants that reach around 5 to 6 inches at full maturity. These amazing white eggplants are known for their smooth taste with very little bitterness. This variety doesn’t do well in hot climates, instead thriving in areas with shorter and slightly cooler growing seasons.

2. Lista De Gandia Eggplant

Listada de Gandia is one of the most stunning eggplant cultivars available. This European heirloom produces slightly elongated egg shaped fruit that are light purple brushed with white streaks. No two eggplants from this heirloom are the same; each appears to be an individually hand-painted masterpiece. Listada de Gandia plants produce two to three eggplants at a time, each fruit reaching between 5 and 7 inches when fully mature. This heirloom is well suited for warm climates and handles drought and extreme heat well. These eggplants have a thin skin, a mild flavor and are a good choice for either roasting or stuffing. While tasty, the colorful painted appearance of this eggplant alone makes it worth planting in your urban garden.

3. Patio Baby Eggplant

Don’t have room for an in ground garden but still want to grow eggplant? This variety is the right choice for you. Although they’re shaped like traditional purple eggplants, these little beauties only reach 2 to 3 inches maximum and are nearly black in color. The compact plants will only grow 2 feet tall, they thrive in containers, and they don’t have thorns. Patio babies are highly productive and can produce eggplants throughout the entire growing season as long as the fruit is regularly harvested.

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