Eggplants are in the same plant family as peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. Known as nightshades, these plants are all fairly easy to grow in the home veggie garden.
However, when it comes time to harvest your eggplants, you may be a bit uncertain. Do I pick it while it’s purple? Should I wait until it turns pale and brown?
In this article, I’ll share how to know exactly when your eggplant is ripe. There is a perfect time to pick eggplants, so let’s get into it.
When to pick eggplants
Eggplants are one of the many vegetables that are harvested before they are fully ripe. The same is true for many types of zucchini, green beans, peas, and cucumbers. So, a ripe eggplant is actually past its prime for culinary use.
When is the perfect time to pick?
As a rule, you should harvest an eggplant after it has reached its full size and the color is still purple. The skin should be glossy and bright, not dull and faded. When squeezed gently, the eggplant should rebound to its original shape.
Another way to know your eggplants are ripe is to look to your seed packet. Most varieties are ready to pick between 65-80 days after transplanting. Wait too long, and the fruits may become over-ripe.
As you harvest the young eggplants, the plants will send more energy towards producing more fruits. This means bigger overall harvests when you stay on top of picking.
Over-ripe eggplants will have softer flesh that tends to sink in when squeezed. Ripe eggplants will also change color, usually to a pale brown or yellow, and lose some of their shiny appearance.
|Over-Ripe Eggplant||Ideal Eggplant|
|Brown and pale skin||Purple and shiny skin|
|Tough, dense flesh||Firm flesh|
|Large, unappetizing seeds||Small, undeveloped seeds|
|Bitter flavor||Sweet, less-bitter flavor|
So, when it comes to timing the harvest, look for full-sized eggplants with a bright purple color. If they begin to go pale and dull, they should be picked right away, or left on the plant for seed collection.
What to do with overripe eggplants
If your eggplants have become overly-ripe on the plant, they can still serve a purpose. If you plan to save eggplant seeds to sow next year, you actually want the fruits to be fully ripe before picking.
If an eggplant is picked pre-maturely, the seeds will not have had time to develop. This is great for eating, as the seeds are small and easier to chew. However, undeveloped seeds will have low germination rates.
Can you eat a brown or yellow eggplant?
Over-ripe eggplants are still edible, but are less appetizing than underripe ones. The seeds are large and unpleasant, and the flesh becomes increasingly bitter as the eggplant matures.
However, if you are dead-set on eating your ripe eggplant, use a spoon to scrape out the seedy section of the flesh. The remaining meat of the eggplant may be bitter, so try roasting them with sweeter vegetables. Carrots, onions, and peppers can all add sugars that help offset any bitter flavor.
Eggplant growing tips
Whether you’re growing in containers, raised beds, or in the ground, use these tips to improve the success rate of your eggplants.
- Plant from seed with peppers and tomatoes. Like I mentioned, eggplants are part of the same family as peppers and tomatoes. As such, they can be planted indoors around the same time. They can also be planted nearby each other as companions.
- Seek out stress and disease-resistant varieties. Like many popular food crops, there are cultivars that are known to stave off disease. These will often be hybrids (F1 seeds), but some heirlooms are known to perform well, too. Blight and powdery mildew are common issues that some cultivars can resist.
- Bottom-prune plant leaves. By removing the lower leaves of your eggplant plants, you help reduce disease from soil splashing. This also makes it easier to harvest eggplants without rummaging through lots of foliage.
- Mulch around the base of plants. Using shredded leaves, straw, or plastic, mulch around the base of your eggplants. This helps retain soil moisture, prevent messy soil splashing, and release nutrients (when using organic mulch).
- Store eggplant in the crisper drawer. After picking, if you don’t have an immediate use, store your eggplants in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. If you need long-term storage, the freezer is your best bet.
Common eggplant questions:
In addition to harvesting time, here are a few common questions related to growing eggplants:
- Can you eat the seeds in eggplants? Eggplant seeds are edible, but as they mature they become larger, harder, and more chewy. This is another reason to harvest eggplants while they are underripe, as the seeds will be easier to chew and digest.
- Can you eat eggplant skin? The skin of eggplants is edible, and often left on for cooking in dishes. Eggplant skin is very thin and easy to eat, especially while the eggplant is picked at the right time. Wait too long to harvest and the skin can become bitter and tough.
- When do I pick white eggplants? Some eggplants are not purple. However, most varieties will change color as they ripen. Pick white eggplants promptly after they reach their full size, before they turn brown or yellow.
- Are eggplant flowers and leaves edible? Eggplant flowers contain solanine, a toxic alkaloid found in many nightshade plants. It is more commonly associated with eating green potatoes, but is also found in eggplant flowers and leaves.
I hope this article helps you know exactly when to pick your eggplants. Ripe eggplants are not ideal for cooking and eating, but can still be used in the kitchen, or for seed saving.