|Scientific Name : Solanum melongena L|
|Family : Solanaceae (the Poisonous Nightshade family)|
|Colour : White, purple, green, yellowish white|
|Common names : Eggplant, aubergine guinea squash, brinjal|
|Best Season : Throughout the year|
|Nutritional Value : 42 kcal, 4.8 g protein, 525 mg calcium, 6 mg iron, 6.4 mg vitamin A per 100 g serving|
Eggplants are believed to be native of the far east, India or perhaps southern China. They got their name from a common variety which produced small, white fruits resembling eggs. Cultivated throughout the world they are known by different names and comes in a number of varieties. It contains vitamin C and potassium.
The ornamental looking plant grows as a small bush up to 1.5 m high. The leaves are large, alternate and lobed, with the underside of most varieties covered with dense wool-like hairs. The flowers are violet-colored and star-shaped, and bloom either as a solitary or in clusters of two or more. The fruit can vary in shape from oval to round or cylindrical and long to oblong. The color of the mature fruit is typically purple to purple-black, but can also be red, yellowish-white, white or green.Propagation and Planting :
Propagation is through seeds and transplants are available from nurseries. Seeds can be sown 1/2 inch deep in pots or seed trays or directly in the soil. The soil should be kept moist and enriched with manure. Protect from wind and sun for the first few days. Seeds sown indoors is ready to be transplanted in 6 to10 weeks with five to seven leaves. Spacing between plants vary depending on the variety, usually they are set 2 to 3 feet apart. They can also be grown in large pots or tubs.
Eggplants are a warm season plant and requires full sun to give maximum yield. They are at risk in cold temperatures. Those grown in partial shade will take longer to ripen fruit. It requires warm, fertile, well drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7. Prepare the soil well before planting by adding a generous amount of compost or well rotted manure.
Plants are fairly tolerant to drought but must be kept well moist at all times. But too much watering can also cause roots to rot. Regular light fertilizing yields a good crop. Transplants will start yielding around 30 days after flowering. They are ready to be picked when the skins turn glossy.Problems and Care :
Eggplants are subject to a number of problems, including diseases, insects and environmental factors. A particularly damaging disease in eggplant is Verticillium wilt. It causes stunt growth in plants and yellowing, wilting, and dying of leaves. They are also susceptible to seed rot and leaf spots. Proper growing conditions like full sun with well drained soil can avoid these problems. Flea beatles causing tiny holes in leaves are another problem which can be controlled by applying insecticides. Mulching around the plant will help control weeds, reduce water loss, maintain even moisture and stabilize soil temperatures.
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