When to harvest eggplant

When it comes to gardening, we can agree that it is a tedious task, right from planting to watering to upkeep to fertilization to harvesting. It is a herculin task. Most of our gardening and post gardening time is spent on checking plants for fruits and when they appear, we eagerly wait for them to ripen. Same is the case with flowers and vegetables and in this case the Eggplant. Once we plant them, we are on the lookout for flowers and then wait for them to get pollinated to develop fruits. When we finally see them the only thought that lingers is when to harvest eggplant.

Eggplants are one of the most beautiful vegetables. If you are wondering when to pick eggplant its probably 100 to 120 days after they are planted from seed. Eggplants as we know it can either be planted from seed or transplanted, if the plants are transplanted they can be harvested in about 60 to 85 days. The time of harvest completely depends on the variety you have planted. But almost all varieties mature in July, august and September. Some variants start to mature late September and into October.

When to harvest eggplant
harvest eggplant

This article will take you through the after-planting nitty-gritty of eggplant. Right from when to harvest eggplants to how to harvest them. We will also look at a few common variants of the eggplant and check how to harvest them.

In most cases, the harvesting process is the same for all variants but sometimes exotic variants might come with special instructions.

When to harvest eggplant

Eggplants are summer crops that can be grown easily from seed as well as when purchased as saplings. When it comes to planting them, they can be grown in planters as well as directly in the ground.

These plants can get finicky when it comes to maintenance but they are the most rewarding and one of the best plants you can have in your garden. While harvesting eggplants, the amount of time it takes to grow and the size largely depends on the breed and when you plant them.

Most of the time when you plant them from seed you will have an estimated time as to when they will be ready to harvest. These instructions come with saplings as well. While this is accurate most of the time, the actual seed or seedling to harvesting time depending on the weather conditions and the nourishment the plant receives.

Harvesting eggplant is a little tricky as they need to be fully formed. If eggplants are harvested before time, they taste bitter. Questions like how to know if an eggplant is ripe? To answer this we can say that once the eggplant turns the color of ripeness and is glossy and smooth to touch you can cut it off. Ripe color in this context depends on the variant.

Eggplants need to be firm to touch and not hard, hence if the fruit is hard you can leave it on the plant a little longer.

While on the topic of harvesting eggplants let’s have a look at the repercussions of harvesting them too early or late.

When should eggplant be picked?

There is no specific eggplant harvest time, you cannot possibly harvest eggplants too early. They are an absolute delight to eat when tender. The only thing is leaving them too long on the plant will toughen them up. Hence, if the question when should you harvest eggplant concerns you.

Remember you can harvest them early like bell peppers, cucumbers, okra and squash. You can also harvest them when they are about one to two thirds full mature in size. But be careful about looking up the average size of the variant you have. This can be a tricky way to check if eggplants can be harvested.

There are eggplant variants that grow smaller. Another way to know if its time to harvest is to look at the skin. For purple variants the skin needs to be dark and glossy. If the skin is dull it indicates over maturity. As the stem of these vegetables are tough use sharp sheers to harvest them.

Eggplant early harvest

Harvesting eggplants is a common problem for most novice gardeners. finding the right eggplant harvest time is tricky. These fruits take their time to mature. If taken down too early they will have a bitter flavor and the texture won’t be good to consume. The best time to harvest these plants is when the skin of the fruit is glossy.

In most case, you can consume eggplants immediately after they have been harvested. These do not require further ripening off the vine.

Eggplant late harvesting

Eggplants that have been left on the vine a little too long will not grow larger than usual but will surely lose their glossy finish. Like when under ripe, overripe eggplants have a bitter flavor and are chewy. So, what is the right eggplant harvest time?

The easiest trick to know is by cutting the fruit down the centre of the seeds are brown the fruit is overripe. They are generally discarded or saved for the seed to replant.

So, if you want to know when to harvest eggplant pay attention to the growth cycle of the variant you have planted. If the question How do you know when eggplant is ripe on the vine? Worries you. The simple answer to this is to pay attention to the fruit.

According to the fruit development cycle, it will grow to about 4 to 5 inches or bigger depending on the variant. The black beauty eggplant grows to about 5 inches but the Japanese eggplant is longer and slenderer. There are smaller and rounder variants as well. so, the size of eggplants depends on the variant you have planted.

After the fruit had reached the maximum size it will then start to become firm. While the fruit is raw it is hard as compared to when it is ready to harvest. The skin will also get a glossy finish from a matt look it has while in the growing stage. When ready to harvest it will have a waxy appearance that looks spectacular.

Once you see these changes in your eggplant be rest assured that they are ripe and ready to harvest.

Now that we have a fair idea about when to harvest eggplant it is also important to pay attention to the size you are looking at.

Eggplant early harvest

How big should an eggplant be when you pick it?

The size of the fruit depends on a number of factors. This includes the amount of water and nourishment the plant receives. The weather conditions and also the variant you have planted. Most eggplants are around 3 to 6 inches in size some bigger variants can go up to 10 to 12 inches as well.

Along with harvesting on time, it is important to prune the plant regularly.

Is my eggplant ready to harvest?

Some may say that eggplant harvest time is unpredictable. But this is far from true. It is better to harvest eggplants early as they taste great tender and mature off the plant. This way it will last longer when stored properly.

It is also said that eggplants need to be picked as soon as they are ripe. This can be done by clipping it off the plant with sharp sheers. Be careful not to tug onto the fruit as the stem is woody and it can damage the plant.

If the fruit is ripe you can know by looking at the skin. Especially in the purple ones that turn glossy and a deep shade of purple once they are ready to be harvested. You can also check if the eggplant is ready by gently squeezing the fruit. The skin should bounce back once released. If a dent remains the fruit is not ripe yet same is the case if it is too hard.  

How do you tell if an eggplant is ripe?

Wondering when is an eggplant ripe? There are a few things to look for, first the color. Depending on the variant you will have a clear idea of how the fruit will look once ripe. Use this as a guide to look for the right color to pick at. Some of the colours available are purple-blush-white, deep-purple, orange (these are popular in Africa).

Once you are convinced of the color or aren’t very sure of what the right tone is look for how firm the fruit is to touch. So, the second thing to look for is how firm the fruit is. The eggplant needs to be firm but not too hard to touch.

The third thing to look for is the flesh. For this you will have to cut open a fruit but its ok. The flesh should be white with a slight green tint or orange for orange variants. the seeds should also be clearly visible. If these criteria aren’t met wait for about a week and check again.

When to prune eggplant?

After the fruit is harvested, seasoned gardeners tend to prune eggplant, they swear by the fact that the plant grows faster and it stimulates a second crop. This is in fact true. When you cut back the plant to about 3 inches from the ground you can expect the plant to yield a second time as long as the weather temperature remains favourable.

To make sure you have a second crop make sure you harvest the crop as soon as the fruit reaches the appropriate size depending on the variant. You will then have time for a second harvest if it is still warm.

In cooler conditions, the fruit will take time to ripen. The average cycle of eggplant is 60 to 80 days from germination to harvest.

In order to speed up the process, you can germinate the seeds indoors before transplanting them to the ground or letting them grow outdoor when it is warmer. This way you will increase the chance of a second harvest after pruning.

Pruning and expecting a second crop is good and will happen as long as the temperatures are favourable. But what if you harvest eggplants before they completely mature? Will they ripen off the vine?

Will eggplant ripen off the vine?

When it comes to growing and harvesting vegetables, they are normally harvested a little early and left to ripen while in transit or it can sit on the counter for a few days before consumption. When it comes to eggplants however almost all variants of the eggplant are picked after maturing on the vine. This being said it is difficult to ripen eggplants off the vine.

These plants are generally harvested a little before they fully mature and then used for cooking, preserving or freezing. This reduces the chances of the fruit over maturing on the plant and at the same time traps in the taste and texture of the fruit.

If you look at the average plant there are speculations about the number of fruits they will produce. This section goes into details about this aspect of the eggplant, it speaks about harvesting eggplants

How to have the best eggplant harvest?

Eggplant is a versatile vegetable that can be used in a variety of preparations. These plants are easy to plant and care for. Most vegetable gardeners aim at having a great eggplant harvest. We have put together a cheat sheet to make things a little easier.

  • Try growing smaller variants.

Smaller variants of the plant take half the time bigger variants take to grow. These are easy to maintain and also easy to feed. Look for long and slender Asian variants, you can also go in for shorter variants.

  • Take time with seeding eggplants.

These plants like to take their time, if you hurry with the seeding process they will not grow well. These plants love warm conditions. Eggplant seedlings grow quickly and start flowering early.

  • Anticipate pests

As we know it prevention is better than cure and in this case it’s the best you can do for the plant. Flea beetles are a nuisance and infest the crop quickly. It is said that plants that are grown in planters are more resistant to these pests. You can also try prepping the soil before planting this will ensure that pests stay away from the crop.

  • Attract native pollinators

Pollinators are the most important to improve fruit set and the fruit size. Though this can be gone manually by using a dry painters brush or an electric toothbrush. Having bees like the carpenter bee, bumble bee and little sweat bees in the garden has a charm of its own.

  • Feed the plants on time

Seeing that the eggplants in your garden are fed is the most important. The plant will start to bloom about 6 weeks after planting. this is when the plant needs maximum nutrients. This is to ensure that the plants produce good quality fruit.

When to pick eggplant?

If you are wondering when to pick eggplant, remember it depends on the variant. This vegetable can be enjoyed while they are still tender. And are generally picked before they completely mature on the plant. This being said most vegetable gardeners swear by waiting till the fruit is about one to two thirds mature based on the size.

This might not be the best way to know as all variants have different sizes they grow up to. But this is surely one of the ways to know if the eggplant is ready to be harvested.

How long does it take for eggplant to grow after flowering?

It takes eggplants about 8 weeks to flower. When this plant has started to bloom and is getting ready to bear fruit, feeding it will do wonders. This is the time this plant requires the maximum nutrients and water. You can use organic fertilizer or compost manure.

eggplants will typically appear 50 to 80 days after flowering. this will give you enough time to feed the plant and give it some extra TLC.

Will eggplant ripen after picking?

Most novice vegetable gardeners worry whether will eggplant ripen after picking. The simple answer to this is yes. Eggplants like okra, squash and other vegetables alike is supposed to be picked early. These vegetables are picked early to increase their storage shelf life. If picked when mature they tend to lose most of the texture and taste. Hence it is better to pick them when they are almost ready.

How many eggplants do you get per plant?

How many eggplants do you get per plant? 0-12 per year.

How many eggplants do you get per plant
How many eggplants do you get per plant

This is a slightly tricky question to answer as the number of fruits a plant yield depends on a number of factors. These include the weather conditions – prevalent the warmer the better when it comes to planting and growing eggplant.

Along with this it also depends on the amount of water and nourishment the plant receives. The variant also plays an important role, some variants yield more fruit as compared to others.

This being said eggplants yield fruit annually and they average to 0 – 12 per year. According to square foot gardeners, eggplant production ranges from 1 – 2 per square foot. This can increase or decrease over time depending on the plant.  

When to harvest eggplant is a question that will take a little experience to answer. We have put together a few tips that will make the task a little simpler.

When and how to harvest eggplant

1 Eggplants need to harvested in time or a little over time but never before or too much after maturity.

Eggplants when harvested at the right time have a lovely aroma and taste. If harvested before of after time they will be chewy and bitter to taste.

In order to check if the fruit is ready, look at the colour of the outer sink. What you are looking for is a smooth glossy finish. The fruit needs to be at least one-third of the maximum size depending on the variant.

Secondly, the fruit needs to be firm when touched. To test press the fruit with your thumb. If the skin springs back it is green and not ripe, leave the fruit longer on the plant it needs time to mature. If your thumb leaves an indentation the fruit is overripe. Look for a change in colour and glossiness. If it has changed colour you will not be able to consume the fruit.

The ideal time to harvest the eggplant is in between the springy and indentation stage. Knowing when to pick an eggplant is the most important as this surely determines not only the taste but the quality of your overall dish.

2 checking if the eggplant is ripe by cutting into it

It may so happen sometimes that you have already harvested the fruit but are not very sure if it is ripe. There is an easy way to determine whether the eggplant is mature or not. All you need to do is cut into the plant.

A ripe eggplant when sliced open will have soft well-formed immature seeds. If the eggplant is unripe there won’t be visible seeds. On the other hand, if the fruit is overripe the seeds will turn dark and hard.

In terms of taste, the under and overripe fruit will have a bitter taste as compared to the perfectly ripe one.

Harvesting eggplants are simple. You will not require special equipment. Once you have identified the fruits that need to be harvested simply follow the following steps to harvest the fruit seamlessly without damaging the plant.

1 Be prepared

Before cutting off the eggplant it is important to be prepared and keep all you require close. use sterilized garden pruners, sharp scissors or knife. This will make the harvesting process easy. Blunt instruments will not only make it extremely difficult to cut the fruit off the plant but it will also damage the plant.

2 Do not pull the fruit off

There are a few vegetables that can be harvested without cutting them off the plant. when it comes to eggplants, they are tougher than other vegetables and the green stem attached to the fruit is also strong and tugging onto it will damage the plant.

3 One single motion

While harvesting an eggplant it is important to use sharp instruments and cut the fruit at the top. This will make the process easier and the plant will also thank you for not tugging onto it. Leave about one inch of the green stem attached to the fruit.

After a detailed explanation about how the fruit needs to be harvested and the various techniques to understand if the fruit is ready to be harvested. Let’s get into details about When to harvest eggplant and then also look at specific eggplant variants and when they can be harvested.

When to harvest Japanese eggplant

When to harvest Japanese eggplant

How do you know when to pick an eggplant especially a Japanese eggplant? Here are the steps to follow.

#1 Check the size

Like most eggplants, the Japanese eggplant will grow a minimum of a third of the original size. Once the fruit has reached a specific size it will most probably not grow in size. It will only mature. This variant should grow to about 6 to 8 inches. 

#2 Check the texture

While harvesting the Japanese eggplant texture is the most important. When the fruit is ripe the skin will turn glossy. This is indicative of the fact that it can be harvested.

#3 feel the fruit

To know of the Japanese eggplant is ready to harvest along with the texture you will also need to feel the fruit. Ripe eggplants are firm to touch. If the fruit is hard you can probably let the fruit stay on the plant for a little bit. If you see that the texture is a little soft and sloppy it means that the fruit is overripe. Overripe fruits will also have a dull texture.

Be sure not to harvest under-ripe or overripe Japanese eggplant as these will be bitter to taste. The texture of these will also be different and not so palatable after cooking.

When to harvest Black beauty eggplant

The black beauty eggplant is a common variant of the eggplant that is seen in most households. These are the easiest to grow and have the signature eggplant color. This variant needs a lot of sunlight like the other variants and good quality soil. the more you water the black beauty plant the better. All they require is good nourishment, water and full sun to grow.

These plants normally grow to about 4 to 5 inches in length. They are fuller as compared to other variants and are preferred in cuisines that require grilling or filling. When it comes to harvesting the black beauty eggplant you can

#1 check if the skin is glossy and smooth to touch. Glossy skin is indicative of the fact that the black beauty eggplant is ready to be picked. As these plants have a denser colour it is easier to spot the ripe ones on this variant as compared to the lighter ones.

#2 they fruit needs to be firm when you press it with your thumb. Like other variants, you will need to feel the fruit before plucking it off the vine. For this, all you need to do is press it with your finger if it is hard it’s raw if it’s too soft its overdone. The best eggplants have an in-between texture where they are firm to the touch but not too soft.

#3 use sharp scissors while harvesting the black beauty eggplant as there are extremely tough. Unlike tomatoes that can be plucked by hand, eggplants need to be cut off the plant as they are tough. Tugging on to them will only harm the plant. You might even cause the unripe fruits to fall off. Secondly, the black beauty eggplant is delicate and hence when you tug onto them you might damage the fruit.

In general, we see that the eggplant seed to harvest time is about 60 to 70 days depending on the variant. Some might flower and bear fruit faster than the others but, on average, they require at least 2 months to completely mature. When it comes to growing eggplants it also depends on the amount of sunlight it receives. Water and nourishment also play an important role. It may in some cases expedite the eggplant seed to harvest time.

If temperatures are low, eggplants find it difficult to grow. Hence if the temperature outside is too low, consider planting the eggplant indoors. These can be grown under artificial lighting. The size of the eggplants will differ but you will still be able to enjoy them. 

After details about harvesting eggplants, it is important that gardeners understand how to store them right. Proper storage techniques will help retain the taste of the eggplant and will also preserve it longer.

#1 as eggplant is a summer crop it thrives on humidity. hence, while preserving eggplant it is important to place it in a room with high humidity. this will not only help preserve the texture but also prevent dehydration.

The optimal temperature for storing eggplants is 55°F (13°C). At this temperature, it will stay fresh for about 2 weeks. If you pan to refrigerate the fruit, you cannot go below 50°F (10°C).

#2 if you plant to refrigerate eggplants you will need to wash them clean, pat them dry with a kitchen towel and place them in a zip lock bag. This will help the fruit retain moisture as refrigeration tends to dry out fruits.

#3 Eggplants will start to darken when cut. Hence to avoid discolouration use them immediately after slicing.

#4 Temperatures below 41°F (5°C) will cause the eggplant to develop surface pits, bronzing, brown spots and decay. Pay close attention to where you store them.

#5 Avoid storing them with apples or tomatoes, the ethylene in them will cause the eggplant to go bad.

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To sum it up

Eggplants are extremely easy to plant and harvest. These are warm-season crops and grow better in full sun. These plants need to be pruned after the first harvest as this will stimulate a second harvest as long as the growth conditions are right.

The eggplant is a delicate fruit/vegetable and you need to be extra careful while harvesting it. Rough handling can cause them to bruise. Always use sharp scissors or garden pruners to harvest eggplants. Eggplants are tough and cannot be plucked out like tomatoes. Tugging on to them might damage the plant.

To know when to harvest eggplant pay attention to the skin of the fruit. Glossy means ready to be picked. The fruit will also be firm to touch. If you pick them too early – when they are hard and not so glossy. After they have passed their prime – when they are soft and have lost colour. They will taste bitter.

Lastly, when to harvest eggplants is as important as knowing how and when to plant eggplants. Happy gardening!