Anna planted 6 eggplant plants. Eggplant plants. Hmmm. Ok, sounds right. And once in a while we have eggplant, but I had no idea how they grow. Like a pumpkin? Like corn? Doing some research they grow very similar to a pepper. They thrive in warm summer and dislike the cold.
The optimal planting is 18-24 inches apart. Although, ours is more like 10 inches I think and are doing well. Fertilize with some nitrogen (like organic blood meal) when planting and again immediately after harvesting your first fruits (i didnt know it was a fruit!). Eggplants do well in the summer but keep the soil moist. Dont let it go too dry for too long.
Harvest when the fruits are 6-8 inches long and it is glossy. To test, hold the eggplant in your palm and gently press it with your thumb. If the flesh presses in but bounces back, it is ready for harvesting. If the flesh is hard and does not give, the eggplant is immature and too young to harvest. If the thumb indentation remains, the eggplant to over mature and may be completely brown inside and bitter with large tough seeds.
Use a knife when picking, instead of tearing the stem. Always cut the eggplant with the cap and some of the stem attached. Large plants yield about 4-6 fruits.
Ive read that there is a difference in male and female fruits. The dimple on the bottom of the eggplant can be very round or oval in shape. The round ones seem to have more seeds and tend to be less meaty, so select the oval dimpled eggplant.
Ive heard you cant store eggplant well and should be eaten ASAP after buying or picking. Anna says its OK to put in the freezer and she saw some friends in Italy do this by slicing the fruit up and putting into plastic bags.
The best book with several grilling recipes for eggplant can be found here: the “How to Grill” book below. A worthwhile, full color, how-to grill book with a ton of recipes.