Growing eggplant in your garden

Andrew Mangwarara
ONE of the most important vegetable family to man is the tomato (solanaceae) in which belongs the potatoes, pepper and the eggplant. The eggplant is not a very common vegetable but nonetheless, it is worthy to include it in your diet. Eggplant is botanically known as solanum melongena and in some circles is referred to as brinjals or aubegine, having its origins in the Burma region, also known as Myanmar in Asia.

It is a summer crop that thrives in warm weather, growing to a height of 150cm for some varieties with large leaves 5-10cm wide and can be 10-20cm long. Its flower is white to purple with yellow stamens. The best time to grow brinjals is well after winter (being very susceptible to frost) from August to November. The ideal pH range is 5 to 7.

It is a versatile plant like the tomato, which can be grown in greenhouses, the outdoors, containers and in your backyard. The fruit of the eggplant is a glossy purple shaped with a white flesh, it has a meaty texture. The fruit quickly turns brown when cut open.

Aubergine fruit contains numerous small soft seeds which are edible but have a bitter taste. The fruit colour can range from white to yellow or green and reddish purple to dark purple. There are some health benefits of eating the eggplant just as there are benefits of eating real eggs, perhaps even more in this instance.

It is a good source of fibre and aids in digestion. lt is also a rich source of anti-oxidants that helps in cancer prevention. The aubegine is recommended for brain function and healthy bones.

If you are thinking of losing some weight then consider including brinjals in your diet.

Finally, it is said to help with birth defect prevention.

Start your plants in the nursery, transplanting to an in-row spacing of 50cm and an inter-row spacing of 75cm.

A successful variety in Zimbabwe is florida market which matures in 90 days, producing long oval fruits (20x17cm) which are smooth and uniform. Florida market can reach a height of 100cm. There are however so many varieties to choose from. When growing brinjals, try to bring the soil to a fine tilth, ensuring that the soil is well-drained and adding well decomposed manure.

The plant requires regular watering, especially at fruit setting time. However, avoid water logged conditions as these lead to fungal infections; thus drip irrigation is better than flooding.

Harvest fruits at an immature state for cooking purposes by just twisting by hand or using a knife. You can also store the fruit in the fridge at 7-10 degrees celsius for a week in a perforated polythene bag.

Cook your eggplant as you would your potato chips and enjoy!

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