How can you identify ripe, ready to harvest eggplants in your garden? Believe it or not, it is actually a bit tricky to identify ripe eggplants (Solanum melangona).
Factors Affecting Eggplant Ripening Process
Firstly, eggplant fruit come in a range of colors, shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, you can’t just go on the size or shapes of them because that can depend on which varieties you are growing, or what plant hardiness zones they are grown in, what weather conditions the plants have matured in, and a bunch of other factors such as the eggplant variety. When growing conditions are ideal, it takes between 100 and 120 days for them to mature when started from seed (about 15 days less when planted as seedlings) – but that time period is affected by all the growing conditions and hardiness zones the eggplant seeds are first planted in.
Over Ripe Eggplants Are Bitter
Adding to all that, it is important to get it right because as lovely as they are when they are perfectly ripe, their flesh and seeds are bitter and not very nice when picked when overripe. The seeds of a bitter over-ripe eggplant are also usually dark and hard.
Methods To Use Bitter Eggplants
There are some traditional methods to try and make over-ripe eggplants still useful such as salt treatment of the flesh after removing the skin of the fruit (yes they are technically a fruit), but you’ve got so many more options if you manage to pick them at the right times. You can put the firmer variety into stir fries or cook up an Italian inspired storm by making some ratatouille or caponata or lasagna.
Tips To Identify Ripe Eggplant
There are a few tips that can help you work out just when it is ok to pick the eggplant fruits at their peak. When it comes to the different colors and eggplant varieties for eggplant, the most common variety of eggplants in the purple one. When the purple eggplant is ripe, it goes from having a deep purple shade to having a light purple or brownish shade.
Sadly, it tends to be bitter when even a little over-ripe. So it is very important to pick purple eggplant as large as they grow but before it ripens too much. Another sign that they still haven’t become too over-ripe is they have a shiny and elastic surface to them and the deep purple is only beginning to lighten slightly and the top is only just beginning to turn yellow.
So if you see light purple or brown eggplants in the supermarket, reject them due to the fact that they are overripe and also are most likely to be bitter in taste. In fact, a fully ripe eggplant is already passed its prime. It may be a little counter-intuitive compared to other fruits and vegetables, but eggplants have their very own logic in this department so tend to become lighter as they ripen.
When Is Japanese Eggplant Ready To Pick
With Japanese eggplant, it is the same principles that apply. If your eggplants are fully white or have white stripes on them when immature, pick them prior to the white turning yellow and light brown.
A Cautious Approach To Picking Eggplant In Their Prime
If you want to be extra careful about it, go with the idea of picking the fruit while still somewhat immature. When it comes to the optimum flavor and texture of the flesh, it is much better to pick eggplant a little immature as opposed to fully mature. It is better to sacrifice a little on the size of the eggplant than it is to play eggplant roulette with the potential bitterness of it.
Eggplants, like cucumbers, are best when their seeds are immature and for that reason not bitter. So besides waiting for them to get as big as they can prior to you picking them, pick them a bit early rather than too late.