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Otherwise known as egg plants, they have undergone a renascence in recent years because modern varieties are less bitter. But they still need to be grown in the greenhouse or polytunnel.

You can grow them against a sheltered and south facing wall, preferably on a patio where there is plenty of brick and concrete path to trap the heat. They com in a range of colours from white, purple, red, but black is the one that gives the best and most consistent results.

 

 

Soil

 

 

They don’t like wet feet (as the old gardeners used to say) – and are best grown in a fluffy loam, rich in nutrients. For this reason they do well in grow bags, but remember the drainage.

 

Personally, I like to use ring culture pots, or deep raised beds.

 

Sowing and Growing

 

Sow early – February at 16ºC is not too early, and keep them at this temperature until the plant is well established and around May.

 

I sow three seeds in an 8 cm pot and then remove the weakest two. When flowers appear, plant into their final growing position under a cold frame or in a greenhouse.

Care 

Like tomatoes, they need to be controlled in order to get the best fruit. Stop the plant from growing by pinching out the growing point when it gets to around 20 inches high. Thin flowers to one per stem to ensure large fruits.

 

Keep soil moist at all times and the greenhouse/coldframe humid. Feed with tomato fertilizer every 10 days when the fruits appear.

Harvesting

You have to keep your eye on the fruits because they can get over ripe very easily. When they have coloured sufficiently, take them.

 

They will keep for a week – no longer, in the fridge.

Pests and Problems

If ever a plant needed clean conditions it is the aubergine. High humidity can lead to fungal infections – especially botrytis. Make sure the plant is free from dead leaves and so on, and water in such a way as to keep from splashing around. Ensure fruits have good ventilation around them.

 

 

Alter the growing site each year and keep a careful watch for piercing insects such as aphids. You can water with a little copper fungicide (half strength) which will help keep the botrytis at bay.

 

Varieties

 

Ronde de Valance

 

Traditional variety, big black fruits.

 

Black Beauty

 

Good modern variety, early variety, good cropper

 

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COOKING WITH AUBERGINE

More Aubergine recipes shortly!

Grilled Aubergine with cheese and tomato

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