I never ate eggplant growing up. I think it was simply my family’s preferences. I have since grown it successfully, but not every year.

Eggplants like warm weather. It takes soil temperatures close to 80 degrees for the seeds to germinate, which doesn’t happen much in Maine. So unless you started your seedlings on a heat pad sometime in early March, you’ll be planting seedlings, purchased from a local nursery, farm stand or farmers market. Eggplants, by the way, come in many varieties — Thai, Japanese, Italian globe and more — but my growing instructions will work for all of them.

Because they like heat, eggplant grows best if under a floating row cover (a slitted plastic sheet making a miniature greenhouse) or through black plastic placed on the ground. It is not something you can plant and forget, in other words. Eggplants need even moisture, so regular watering is required. And they prefer a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

When we have grown eggplant, I pick them as soon as the skin begins to turn glossy and grill them. Others might prefer to let them grow longer for use in cool-weather recipes, like eggplant Parmesan.


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