How to Plant, Grow, and Save Seeds from Eggplant (Solanum melongena)
Eggplant can be a beautiful addition to your garden. Eggplant enjoy a long growing season, but you can extend your season by starting plants indoors.
It is best to sow eggplant indoors 7-10 weeks before transplanting outside. Start eggplant inside 3-4 weeks before the last frost. Sow eggplant seeds ½” deep. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Transplant outside 4-6 weeks after the last frost into a warm and sunny location. Space plants 18-24” apart. Make sure outdoor soil temperatures are at least 55-60 ℉ before transplanting eggplants.
Eggplant can suffer damage from aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, anthracnose, and Tobacco Mosaic Virus. To protect against insect predation, transplants can be row covered in the spring.
When harvesting eggplant for fresh eating, pick fruits when they are large but not too firm to the touch. Keep in mind that eggplant need to continue growing far past market maturity if you want to save seeds.
Eating and Storing
Eggplant can be roasted, grilled, pureed into baba ghanoush, or fried up as a main course. Its meaty texture withstands a lot of cooking. Eggplant fruits can be stored for about a week in the refrigerator.
Eggplant is an annual crop. It will complete its full life cycle, including germination, reproduction, and death, in one growing season.
When saving seeds from eggplant, separate varieties by 300-1,600 feet. A single plant will produce viable seed. To maintain a variety over time, save seeds from between 5-20 plants.
At seed maturity, eggplant fruits generally change color, taking on ayellow or brownish cast, and their glossy skins become dull. Their flesh will soften and ripe fruits easily separate from the plant when pulled.
Seed-mature eggplants can be extracted by cubing the fruits and processing them in a food processor with a small volume of water to make a slurry of seeds and flesh. If seed damage occurs, a dough blade can be used instead of a chopping blade. After blending, pour the seed slurry into a larger container and add more water. Agitating the watery mash will dislodge seeds from the pulp and allow the viable seeds to settle to the bottom of the container. Repeated decanting will remove most of the pulp and any immature seeds. The mature seeds that remain can then be transferred to a strainer and rinsed with a strong stream of water. Immediately after rinsing, seeds should be spread in a thin layer on screens or coffee filters to dry in a warm, well-ventilated space.
Store eggplant seeds in cool, dark, and dry place in an airtight container. When stored in these conditions, eggplant seeds will remain viable for 4-6 years.