Eggplant, peppers and tomatoes have much in common. They form the basis of the Mediterranean vegetable stew called ratatouille. All three are related members of the nightshade family. Most importantly, they all need warm, rich soil and a long growing season.
Plus: Summer Ratatouille
Organic eggplants are tricky to grow. Sow seeds indoors at least eight weeks before the plants are set out, and seedlings require sunshine and warm, moist, organic soil. To naturally encourage germination, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours before sowing.
Because starting eggplants is such a precarious business, you may want to buy them from a garden center. In selecting seedlings, look for those in individual pots (for minimal root disturbance in transplanting), and check the stems (woody-stemmed plants will not produce as well as those that have green, pliable stems).
Eggplants require around 100 to 120 days to mature from seeds. The number of days given on seed packets or in catalogs can be misleading, because the days are counted starting from the time the seedlings are planted outside.
Plus: Eggplant Mexicano
Seedlings should not be transplanted into the garden until day-time temperatures reach 70°F (21°C). In areas where summer arrives late, gardeners should plant early, or fast-maturing, varieties.
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