Question: How do I know when my eggplants are ready to pick? I’m growing eggplants in my garden, and I want to make sure I harvest them at the right time for the best flavor and texture because I’ve picked some bitter ones in the past. Can you provide some guidance? – Susan T.
Gardening Channel Replies: Harvesting eggplants at the right time is essential for enjoying their optimal taste and texture. They’re gross and bitter if you wait too long. Below are several indicators to help you determine when your eggplants are ready for picking. I’d also like to point out that it’s better to use a set of pruners to harvest eggplant, because it’s really easy to damage the plant if you try to just pluck one with your hand. They’re on there pretty good.
1. Time to Harvest
In general, eggplant takes around 65 to 80 days to harvest, depending on your garden zone and the variety of eggplant. So keep the time period in mind to know when to start expecting them to be ready soon.
2. Color and Size
One of the primary indicators of a ripe eggplant is its color and size. Depending on the variety, mature eggplants can range from dark purple to white or even striped. Familiarize yourself with the specific color and size characteristics of your eggplant variety. Typically, a deep, glossy color indicates that the eggplant is ripe.
3. Skin Texture and Firmness
Another sign of a ripe eggplant is the texture and firmness of its skin. When gently pressed with your thumb, a ripe eggplant should yield slightly but then bounce back into shape. If the indentation remains, the eggplant may be overripe. The skin should also be smooth and shiny, without wrinkles or blemishes.
4. Cap and Stem Appearance
Examine the cap and stem of the eggplant for signs of maturity. A ripe eggplant will have a green, fresh-looking cap and stem that are free of decay or damage.
5. What Seeds Look Like With Immature, Ripe and Overripe Eggplant
Although it is not a definitive test, you can also check the seed development inside the eggplant. Cut a small fruit from your plant and slice it open. If the seeds are small, white, and barely visible, the eggplant is still young. Brown, well-developed seeds indicate an overripe eggplant. Ideally, the seeds should be slightly visible but not fully developed. This will give you a better idea of your eggplant picking skills, and let you adjust based on what you’re seeing. I’d bet the bitter ones you picked in the past also had brown seeds!
To sum up the best time to pick your eggplants, keep track of the days, observe their color, size, skin texture, firmness, and the appearance of the cap, stem, and seeds. By keeping these factors in mind and familiarizing yourself with the specific characteristics of your eggplant variety, you can ensure a successful and flavorful harvest.