Thursday, July 8, 2010

Growing Eggplant in Kihei


Black Beauty

Eggplant, like tomatoes and peppers, will grow all year in most areas of Hawaii. In Kihei, the plants produce their best fruit in the winter and early spring when the nights are cooler and the daytime temps are in the 80's.

When planted in the ground or in a raise bed, depending on the variety, eggplant seedlings can grow to be a 3 ft x 3 ft bush. The plants can be pruned back periodically and will regrow. Sometimes the plant will produce for 2 to 3 years.

Rosa Bianca

I've been trialing heirloom eggplant seeds for the last 2 years and growing them in large self-watering containers that I purchased at WalMart. Rosa Bianca and Black Beauty are perfect for making Eggplant Parmigiana. Most globe type eggplants I've grown couldn't tolerate the summer heat - they grow best during the cooler months.

I've trialed two varieties of long eggplant - Ping Tung and Violetta Lunga. Ping Tung is an Asian eggplant that doesn't do well in Kihei during the warmer months. Violetta is an early Italian variety and it was one of the more heat tolerant varieties I've grown.

a more heat tolerant globe eggplant

I plant the eggplant seedlings in an organic and natural potting soil amended with organic blood meal, organic bone meal, organic egg shells, green sand and an organic all-purpose fertilizer. The plants need daily water and generous monthly applications of an all-purpose fertilizer.
 
Eggplant can be planted anytime of the year. I prefer to start seeds in the winter months - they take 4 to 5 months until the first fruits.
 
Blossom Ends of Eggplants Grown in the Summer
Ping Tung (center) - Violetta Lunga (right)

In the hotter months of the year, the rose beetles do significant damage to the eggplant leaves but they don't damage the flowers or fruit. The hot summer sun can cause the fruit to yellow or the developing fruit to emerge from the calyx with dry, leathery blossom ends.

Examples of this can be seen in the eggplants In the above photo. This isn't what's referred to as blossom end rot. The eggplants are still usable as the dry areas can be peeled or trimmed from the fruits. So far, I haven't had any fruit damaged by larvae, worms or any other pest.

How to Graft an Eggplant
Very useful information provided by Kuma Aina Farms on the Big Island.

Seeds for Violetta Lunga are available at Seeds From Italy. Black Beauty, Ping Tung and Rosa Bianca seeds are widely available.

When most American's think of eggplant they think of eggplant parmigiana. In Italy, eggplant is used extensively in antipastos and even in desserts.

Melanzane sott'olio (an antipasto)

Jamie Oliver's Eggplants Pickled in Olive Oil
Thai Eggplant Salad
Melanzane al Cioccolato (a chocolate dessert)

7 comments:

  1. Those are nice looking eggplants. Rosa Bianca is one of my favorites also, I've been growing it the last 3 years.

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  2. I don't grow eggplant anymore because I just don't use it enough to take the space from my tomatoes. But oh if the plants would live for 2-3 years, I'd probably grow one.

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  3. Hi Mac! Mahalo for the compliment! I've been trying to find a variety that will grow in the hot summer sun. I'm trialing the Bianca Sfumata and another long purple as the ping tung couldn't take the heat either.

    Hi Daphne! I had a neighbor that was inspired by my garden and she planted an eggplant seedling from Lowes in one of her ornamental plant beds. Now that bush is huge, full of eggplants and still producing after 2 years - it's amazing!

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  4. Hi Jane, Elise again :)
    My black beauty is flowering and I'm so excited! Grown from a seedling up here in Olinda area and so far so good. I've never been able to grow eggplant before, so excited to see what happens. I'm also interested in knowing when/how to cut it back and maybe keep producing for years? How cool! Thanks again for your incredibly informative and well-photographed blog! Cheers,
    Elise

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  5. Hi Elise! That's awesome that your eggplant is flowering! The globe eggplants like Black Beauty should do well in Olinda as they prefer cooler temps than Kihei. My main growing season is the late fall and winter. My eggplants start to become really heat stressed in the late spring and summer and I trim them back pretty far and let then regrow. But in Olinda you will probably only need to trim the scraggly branches and leaves that don't look so healthy. They may do well for you all year. Mahalo for your appreciation of my blog!

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  6. Thanks for your wonderful blog! I've been trying to garden in Kahaluu Oahu for a few years now and have been challenged! My globes are growing fairly well but how do you stake up your plants? Mine seem to break when the fruits get bigger. Thanks again for the beautiful pictures!

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    1. Mahalo for your appreciation! I'm growing in containers and the plants don't grow as large as they will in the ground. I use medium size tomato cages (the painted variety that are sold at ACE) and that does help to keep the plants from falling over. You may need to prune some of the emerging fruit if the branches are heavy and breaking. One of my gardening books recommends pruning some of the flowers off for plants that are growing in the ground.

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