Eggplants are interesting garden plants to grow. However, they do have a fairly long growing season, and once the fruits develop, it can be difficult to determine when they are ready to harvest. Most importantly, you want to wait until the eggplant is ripe before you harvest, but how do you tell?
To know if it’s ripe, you can cradle an eggplant in the palm of your hand and gently squeeze it with the tips of your fingers. If the skin springs back when you stop pressing, the fruit is ripe. But, if you can still see the indentation of your fingers, the fruit is still unripe or may even be overripe.
It’s interesting to note that all parts of the plant are toxic except for the fruits. Here are a few other telltale signs that will ensure that you pick your eggplants when they’re ripe.
Look at the Skin
Generally speaking, the skin of a ripe eggplant should be nice and glossy. The skin should also be relatively firm. This means that if you gently squeeze the skin between your fingers, the skin should immediately bounce back after you release the fruit.
However, if you do the squeeze test and the skin retains the indentations of your fingers, then the fruit is not yet ripe enough for picking.
If the skin has started to exhibit a dull appearance, then it means that the fruit has passed the ripeness stage and is now overripe. Overripe eggplants will be much tougher and will have hard, dark seeds inside. You see, the dulling of the skin is a sign that the seeds inside the fruit are starting to mature.
You’ll also find that both overripe and under-ripe eggplants will be bitter in taste. That’s why it’s important to pick them at just the right time.
Therefore, you want to keep an eye on your eggplants as they’re growing and do the squeeze test as soon as you see the skin start to turn glossy. At this stage, the flesh will be nice and tender, and the seeds inside will be fairly small and insignificant.
Another advantage of picking eggplants just as they ripen is that the plant will continue to produce more fruits as long as the temperature is still warm.
Count the Days
A rough guide as to when eggplants are ready to harvest is to keep an eye on your fruits a certain number of days after planting. You see, it takes from 70 to 120 days for eggplants to be ripe.
Of course, this depends on whether you started them from seeds or whether you purchased transplants from your local garden center.
To make this easier, it’s a good idea to have a gardening calendar or journal where you can keep a record of when you planted your crops. You can then use this to predict when your eggplants might be ready to harvest. This makes a good backup to the squeeze test.
For example, if you grew your eggplants by purchasing already grown transplants, you should start to keep a close eye on your fruits starting at around day 65.
Similarly, plants grown from seeds will require another few weeks, so start checking them at around day 100. If you mark these dates on your calendar, it will remind you to check your fruits so that you don’t miss the perfect harvesting time.
Bear in mind, though, that your climate and growing conditions could place a variance on these lengths of time. Therefore, they should only be used as a rough guide, and you should always rely on the appearance and firmness of the skin of the fruit.
Cut One of the Fruits Open
Another way that you can tell whether an eggplant is ripe is to cut it open. If the flesh inside the fruit is firm and creamy or white in color with the absence of small dark seeds, then it’s ripe and ready to be eaten.
An eggplant that makes a hollow sound when you tap the outer skin is likely to be overripe and bitter. That’s because the seeds have started growing and maturing and are taking the place of the flesh.
As you become more experienced at growing eggplants, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice any fruits by cutting them open. You should easily be able to tell just by looking at the fruit and doing the squeeze test that they are ripe and ready for harvest.
What Size should an Eggplant be When it’s Ripe?
The size of a ripe eggplant depends entirely on the variety that you’re growing because there can be a huge variance in size. They can range from being a 5-inch globe to an oblong fruit that is 12 inches long.
Therefore, size is not a good indication of when eggplant is ripe. It’s far better to use the squeeze test and observe the glossiness of the skin.
How do you Pick a Ripe Eggplant?
Eggplants have quite a woody stem. Therefore, it’s best not to just try and pull them off the plant because you might end up damaging the plant itself. Instead, use a sharp pair of kitchen scissors or secateurs to cut the stem of the eggplant to harvest it. Leave around 1 inch of the stem on the fruit.
It’s also a good idea to wear gloves when you’re harvesting your eggplants because the plant can cause irritation to the skin.
Remember that eggplants can be quite delicate, so handle them gently as you’re harvesting them.
What’s the Best Way to Store Eggplants?
Ideally, eggplants should be used as soon as they are harvested. However, they will remain fresh for a couple of days on your kitchen counter. Alternatively, they should keep for about 7 days in the refrigerator if you wrap them in a piece of paper towel and put them in a plastic bag or sealed container.
Another good idea is to cook the eggplant using your favorite recipe and then freeze the cooked dish for a simple, quick meal when you’re otherwise busy.
Bear in mind that eggplants will discolor quite rapidly once they’ve been cut open. Therefore, once you cut an eggplant, you need to use it straight away.