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 Eggplants: When to Havest

Harvesting eggplants can be tricky for a first-time eggplant grower. It really depends on what type of eggplant you’re growing and what stage you like to use your eggplants. For instance, if you’re growing a typical purple eggplant like you see in the grocery store, you can wait until it’s a nice big eggplant to harvest it, but you don’t want to wait until the skin has turned into a dull color, and the fruit gets very hard. At that point, the eggplant will have lots of seeds, and will be tough. 
At the same time, with any type of eggplant, you don’t have to wait until it’s huge to harvest it. You can harvest eggplants any time that you see it, starting when it’s only an inch or two long.
Here is one variety of eggplant. It’s an Italian type of eggplant. It has an oblong egg shape that we’re used to seeing. It has purple and white streaks, as opposed to the dark purple/black eggplant.
This is a white, long, thin eggplant called Gretel. It’s an all America selection. You could harvest the large one at this stage. Or, you can let it grow two to three times bigger. You can even harvest one of the little tiny ones. They would be good to eat whole, and you don’t have to peel them.
This one is a purple, long type of Japanese eggplant known as Hansel. It’s also an All America selection. Again, you can easily harvest the largest one here, or let it keep growing. Generally when you harvest eggplant, you’ll want to use scissors or a pruner to clip the eggplant off the plant, because the stems can be tough. This eggplant would be perfect to cut in half and cook on the grill.
This feature story prepared with Rebecca McMahon, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Sedgwick County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.