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The best eggplants? Pick them young.

Growing your own eggplants has two rewards: the shiny purple fruit is attractive, and homegrown eggplants generally have a richer, mellower flavor than the ones you can buy at the market. Eggplants are especially delicious when harvested young--you should pick the fruit when it is two-thirds full size. You've waited too long if fruit loses its gloss, becomes soft, or develops large seed. frost, sow seed in flats filled with potting mix or in small containers such as milk cartons cut in half with drainage holes poked in the bottom. Once seedlings pop up, keep in a bright area. About 10 days before planting, acclimate them to outdoor living by placing them in a protected spot away from wind and hot sun.

If you buy started eggplants from the nursery, don't delay planting; they need a long growing season to mature. Seed packets say 65 to 75 days, but plants may take longer if weather is cool.

You can choose one of the traditional oval or round varieties such as 'Black Beauty', 'Burpee Hybrid', or 'Early Beauty'. A fairly recent introduction is 'Dusky'; it's a good choice for areas with foggy or cool summers because it matures about two weeks sooner than other varieties. Some eggplant connoisseurs feel that the slender Japanese Long' variety has the most tender skin and most delicate flavor.

Eggplants thrive in hot sun and prefer rich soil with excellent drainage. They do particularly well in raised beds. Provide moderate amounts of water and feed several times during the growing season.
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Date:Mar 1, 1985
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