Can I grow Eggplants, from seed to harvest, indoors? To my surprise, yes you can, absolutely.
Eggplant scored an “A-” on our “indoor-garden feasibility” scale. Eggplant were, overall, fairly easy to grow in the indoor garden and took up relatively little space. Here is the Tub to Table guide to growing Eggplant, from seed to harvest, indoors.
- Botanical name – Solanum melongena
- Sun exposure – Full sun, part sun.
- Light period* – At least 12 hours of light.
- Soil type and pH – sandy, slightly acidic to neutral.
- Water – Keep consistently moist but not wet. You can get some funny shaped fruits if the water is not consistent.
- Weeks to maturity – Traditionally eggplants should take anywhere between 8-12 weeks to harvest. My indoor garden did take a bit longer at 14 weeks.
- Health benefits – Not too much here. They have Manganese, B6 and folate in low quantities. Anthocyanin is a flavonoid which gives its skin that deep purple, aubergnine color.
- Favorite varieties – Hansel, Jaylo, Black Beauty.
Eggplants, also known as aubergine (english) or brinjal (asian), are in the nightshade family along with tomatoes and peppers. Even though it is considered a vegetable, it’s technically considered a berry (just like a tomato or cucumber). It is perennial, but more commonly grown as annual. The eggplant originated in India and Asia and typical prefers a warm climate with ideal temperatures between 70-85 degrees. It won’t set fruit if it’s too cold, or too hot. So, it’s kind of a picky vegetable. My hardiness zone here in the high rockies is 4b. There’s no way I’m growing an eggplant in the mountains, unless I’m doing it indoors. Eggplant might produce in as low as zone 5, but it is really a zone 10 kind of guy.
After you plant the seedlings, stake them right away so you don’t disturb the roots later. You’ll need to stake them so that when they become heavy with fruit they don’t fall over. So you might as well do it early. I was able to plant them fairly close together. As long as they were staked properly they didn’t crowd each other too much. My closest plants were a mere 6 inches apart, and grew very well in such close proximity !
They have lovely little purple flowers that are star shaped just like tomato flowers, and just like tomato flowers, they can be hand pollinated by just shaking their staking pole a few times a week to let the pollen shake about.
Once you have some fruit, make sure you don’t have too many fruit. Try to keep each plant to about 5-6 fruit so it can put all of it’s energy into making fewer, but bigger fruit.
Eggplant, again like tomatoes, are heavy feeders. Add some organic fertilizer into the soil and mix it well at about 6 weeks after seeding, and again when you first start harvesting fruits.
To harvest, cut them on the stem with a sharp, clean knife about an inch above the fruit. They won’t just pluck off, you have to cut them. Harvest them when they are shiny and unwrinkled. If they start to turn yellow they are most likely ripe and ready for harvest. Once they start turning yellow, they will get more tough and bitter.
Eggplants were kind of a long shot, I wasn’t really sure they would grow in the indoor garden because they are a bit of a finicky plant. I planted Black Beauties, Jaylo and Hansel (Which is a smaller variety). The following recipe is made with the Hansel variety. All three did well in the garden with relatively little fuss.
Since we became vegetarians last year, we have found more uses for eggplant at the dinner table. Because it absorbs cooking fats well, it can be very tasty and because of it’s texture, it is a rather good substitute for meat.
Verdict – A-. Eggplants are easy to grow indoors, a beautiful color in the garden and taste better than the store varieties. They are a tropical plant so indoor growing is actually a pretty small leap for them. They take some time but are definitely worth it.
Growing Eggplant IndoorsCourse: MainCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium
A delightfully different and crispy version of the soggy eggplant parmesan you may have tried before.
8-10 Small eggplants, such as Hansel, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
2 Tbsp Salt, divided
2 cups All-purpose flour, divided
2 egg yolks
1 cup cold skim milk
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups tomato sauce, preferable homemade
2 cups shredded mozzarella
fresh parsley, basil or microgreens for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350. Place a cooking rack on a sheet pan and place in oven to keep fried eggplants warm while cooking in batches. Salt eggplants and set aside for 30 minutes.
- In a large bowl, coat eggplant in 1/2 cup flour to absorb any remaining moisture.
- In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup flour and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth. Add milk, whisking continuously until no lumps remain.
- Heat oil in a wok or deep saucepan on medium high heat until 350°F.
- Meanwhile, in a wide bowl, combine remaining flour, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper in a wide bowl.
- Add half the eggplant to batter mixture. Stir to coat well. Remove eggplant from batter and coat in bread crumbs. Gently plate breaded eggplant in oil, stirring occasionally to prevent eggplant from sticking together. Fry for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove eggplant from oil and place on rack in oven.
- Repeat steps 6-7 with remaining eggplant.
- Remove fried eggplant from oven and serve with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Optionally, serve over pasta. Garnish with basil or microgreens.