Grow it yourself: aubergines

GIY – aubergines

Goodness knows why these are described as eggplants – some varieties are egg shaped? The texture can be a little like an over-boiled egg in its shell? Aubergine is a much more attractive name for what is widely seen as a sophisticated vegetable, showing up ever more frequently in modern NZ recipes. The problem with aubergines is getting your timing right because they need maximum heat all summer long. Essentially you need three to four months of warm weather to get a worthwhile harvest and, being a plant from warm climates, it will succumb as soon as temperatures drop in autumn. For most of us, this means starting the plants in pots under cover so they have some size before planting them out when soil temperatures rise in November. You can either buy a few plants from the garden centre or start from seed. If you choose the latter, you may do better if you go for quicker maturing varieties with smaller fruit.

Aubergines are solanums along with potatoes, capsicums and tomatoes but they are not as easy to grow. They like humus rich, friable soils in full sun. Once you have planted them out, treat them like a capsicum or even a tomato. They may need staking if they start to fall over. They will benefit from early pinching out of new shoots to encourage them to be bushy. They will need watering in dry summer times. But the bottom line is that you don’t have established plants in the ground by the beginning of December, you have missed the boat.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.