Fruit and Vegetables

Eggplant - Solanum melongena - Solanum melogena


Eggplant is the fruit of the solanum melongena plant; like many other solanaceae it cannot be eaten raw, as it contains a toxic substance, called solanine, fortunately this substance is thermo-labile, meaning heat makes it harmless, allowing us to prepare numerous delicious and fragrant dishes with aubergines. Eggplants are grown in Europe from around 1400, when they were probably brought by the Arabs; in fact it is a plant of Asian origin, cultivated mainly in India for millennia, botanical species are widespread in Asia and Africa. It is a herbaceous plant, which needs a mild and sunny climate to develop; produces a small shrub, up to 50-70 cm tall, with large roundish leaves, covered by a thin, slightly leathery down; in spring it develops numerous small star-shaped flowers, purple in color, followed by large fruits, black or purple; there is also a species of bright red color, similar to the tomato, cultivated mainly in Africa.

Eggplant cultivation

The plants of Solanum melongena are planted in the garden in late spring, when the minimum temperatures are above 12-15 ° C; we can sow the small seeds in February-March in seedbeds, or directly in the zones with milder climate, checking though that the temperature does not drop too much.
Poniamole to stay in a sunny place, with soil previously enriched with mature manure, and worked thoroughly; if the soil in our garden was too compact, we also add sand at the time of implantation, to improve drainage. Each plant needs at least 50 cm distance from other plants; if we plant the grafted specimens they may need a distance of 70 cm from the other plants.
Since the fruits will (hopefully) be large and heavy, remember to place a tall tutor next to the young plants, to whom to secure the branches during development.

Eggplant care

As with peppers, aubergines also do not tolerate drought well, especially when they bear fruit: so remember to water them with great regularity, avoiding leaving the plant completely dry for prolonged periods of time. The scarcity of water during flowering can cause the fall of the flowers, with consequent absence of harvest. The lack of water during fruit ripening can lead to the production of decidedly small and very compact aubergines, which are not particularly palatable.
When the plant has produced 2-3 flowers on the main stem let us cimiamola, so as to favor the development of lateral branches; we avoid that the plant produces more than 8-10 fruits, in case the flowering was very abundant we also cut the lateral branches.
The ripening of the aubergine fruits can also take place in a few weeks, we only collect the eggplants that are already swollen and slightly yielding to the touch.

Special tricks

Although the eggplant fruit makes us think of Greece and Sicily, hot and dry places, these plants are very afraid of drought; if we live in an area with very draining soil, or with a decidedly hot and dry climate, we place mulching material at the foot of the plant, so as to keep the plant always fresh.
At the moment of planting we spread at the foot of the stem a slow release granular fertilizer, which will melt at every watering.
Remember to keep the soil around the eggplant clear of weeds, frequently hoeing it.

Eggplant diseases

To get the best from your Solanum melongena plants it is good to remember that this variety can be subject to problems related to pests and diseases, which, if not treated with timeliness, can ruin the harvest. The problems can derive from numerous types of adversities, which can be divided into bacteria, fungi and parasites. As for bacterial infections, the most common are bacterial cancer and bacterial mottling; the latter manifests itself with the onset of black spots on the stem and on the leaves, while the former produces black spots on the stem and stems of solanum melongena. To counteract the problem it is useful to avoid causing water stagnation and, when you notice the presence of the problem, use special antifungal products. If the attack is widespread it is necessary to eliminate the affected plants. The most common adversities related to fungi are mal white, botrytis and downy mildew. These problems are related to over-watering or to a non-draining soil. If you notice the signs you need to eliminate the affected parts and intervene with special products.
The most common parasites for aubergines are aphids and whitefly. The aphids hit the shoots and cause the onset of the fumaggine, a black fungus. The white fly is more common on specimens grown in greenhouses and is deposited on the lower part of the leaves, sucking their sap. To counteract these phenomena there are special products, which however must be used with caution as it is a plant for food consumption. Against aphids it is also possible to prepare a macerated with water in which garlic is boiled. After filtering the mixture, it should be vaporized on the affected specimens.

Eggplant - Solanum melongena: Curiosity

The plants of Solanum melongena are called, in the Anglo-Saxon countries, eggplants, an egg plant, and this term derives from the fact that the first varieties of eggplant were rather small and light in color, recalling the shape of the eggs. They are varieties that can still be found on the market in some countries and can also be of another color, as well as white, such as orange and green. In the first years of the introduction of this plant it was believed that it could cause mental disorders, hence the name of eggplant, or insane apple.
The aubergine is a vegetable with a good percentage of potassium, it has a low content of fat and calories, therefore it is also indicated in diets. The best aubergines to cook are those that are firm and heavy, as they are lighter when they are ripe.