Six fruits per plant for larger varieties and 10 for smaller varieties
Aubergines are a delicious Mediterranean used in a number of dishes such as parmigiana, fritters, curries and baba ganoush. Aubergines can also be grilled, roasted and stuffed.
In the same family as tomatoes, peppers and chillies, aubergines can be easy to grow if you give them the right conditions. They need a good, rich, moisture-retentive soil, plenty of sun and warm conditions. A sunny greenhouse or windowsill is perfect for them.
How to grow aubergines
Aubergines need a warm, sunny spot for the best results. Ideally, grow them in a greenhouse or raise them in pots on a south-facing patio or windowsill. Aubergines need a long season to grow, so it’s best to sow seed as early as January in moist, peat-free multi-purpose compost, and keep in a heated propagator under a growing light, to prevent seedlings going leggy (sow seed in March if you don’t have a heated propagator). Pot on into individual pots when the first true leaves appear. Keep potting on if growing in pots or plant out into the greenhouse when night temperatures exceed 10ºC – ensure the soil or compost is free-draining. Feed weekly with a high potash fertiliser once plants have started flowering, and harvest aubergines as and when they appear.
More on growing aubergines:
How to grow aubergines from seed
Sow aubergine seed indoors as early as January if you have a heated propagator, or from March if you don’t. Transplant seedlings into individual 7.5cm pots, when the first true leaves appear. Eventually, plant into the ground or individually in 30cm pots of peat-free, multi-purpose compost. If growing aubergines outside, wait until all risk of frost has passed before moving them to their final growing positions.
How to care for aubergine plants
Aubergines need reliable temperatures of around 20°C to thrive.
To encourage plants to fruit, you can either gently tap or shake the flowers with water to help release the pollen, or grow pollinator plants nearby to entice pollinators (this may be an issue in a closed greenhouse).
Pinch out the growing tips of the main stems of your aubergine plants when 30cm high to encourage side shoots to develop. Once plants have started to flower, feed weekly with a high-potash fertiliser or tomato feed, and mist with water to encourage the fruits to set. When you have five to six fruits remove any other small fruiting shoots. Taller varieties may need staking, particularly when fruits are ripening. Keep plants well watered and mulched.
How to harvest aubergines
The general rule of harvesting aubergines is to pick fruits before the skin loses its gloss. This can be a symptom of over-ripeness, but check the habit of the variety you are growing as some aubergines have less shiny skins.
Aubergines are best picked fresh and cooked immediately. Some varieties need slicing and salting before cooking to remove any bitterness.
See some of the tasty recipes using aubergines, from our friends at Olive Magazine.
Growing aubergines: problem solving
Five aubergine varieties to try
- Solanum melongena ‘Moneymaker’ – an early maturing aubergine, bearing good yields of long, elegant dark coloured fruit, with a good flavour
- Solanum melongena ‘Fairy Tale’ – a compact-variety, making it suitable for growing in containers. Fruits are early to mature, and are slim, long and lavender-coloured with white stripes
- Solanum melongena ‘Little Fingers’ – produces masses of finger-sized fruits with a mild, sweet flavour, on sturdy, compact plants
- Solanum melongena ‘Melanzana Violetta di Firenze’ – a lovely Italian variety, bearing large, ribbed, oval fruits with an excellent flavour, from late-July to October
- Solanum melongena ‘Asian Bride’ – a rare variety, bearing finger-sized fruits which mature from creamy white to develop an attractive pink-purple blush. The white flesh is quick to cook so is ideal for grilling and stir-frying. Plants are sturdy and vigorous