Brinjals, Egg plants, Aubergines (Solanaceae - Solanum melongena)

How about putting purple in your garden – edible purple vegetables that is? Brinjals have originated from the Solanum insanum and the Solanum incanum. Brinjals are probably one of the most popular of vegetables with every country having its own particular way in which the people prepare them for eating.

Brinjals are cultivated and eaten in most parts of the world. In France it is used in ratatouille, in Italy in fritters, in Indian curries, and eaten with tomato and cheese in many Mediterranean countries. Brinjals are probably the vegetable that will never lose its popularity. For a superb health boosting supper dish you could always try a Brinjal stir-fry. (See recipe below.)

The Brinjal grows very easily and is a very low maintenance vegetable to cultivate. They are an asset to any garden and make excellent accent plants because of the pretty purple flowers and bright, shiny, black fruit, contrasting with the green foliage. About half a dozen of Brinjal plants should provide enough for the averaged size family.

Brinjals are related to the tomato, chilies and potatoes and have similar garden soil and climatic condition requirements but needs a longer growing season.

Nutrients in Brinjals, Egg plants and Aubergines

Brinjals are rich in Calcium, Phosphorous, beta carotene and Potasium and also serves as an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, niacin and folate. As part of the diet, Brinjals can be used to combat health conditions such as cholesterol in that it will protect the arteries by clearing the blood, preventing strokes and hemorrhages and it also strengthens the vein walls.

How to grow Brinjals, Egg plants and Aubergines

Where and when to plant your Brinjals, Egg plants and Aubergines

Brinjals will thrive in warm weather conditions and cannot stand the cold. Also Brinjals have quite a long growth season. In tropical areas that boast warm winters one can sow brinjals from seed during winter. Just bear in mind that brinjals are summer vegetables and you need to sow your brinjal seeds taking into account the long grow season that is required for the successful cultivation of homegrown brinjals.

Brinjals will grow in a variety of garden soils but it is advisable to make use of well-drained loamy or sandy loam garden soil.

When preparing the soil for your brinjal plants it is advisable to use soil that is only slightly acidic, that is garden soil that has a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5. If necessary make the appropriate soil amendments to accommodate the cultivation of brinjals in your garden soil. Dig into the garden soil about a spade depth and mix the top garden soil with a little compost and about two cupfuls of superphosphate per square meter. Work these through the garden soil and place the top soil back into the bed that you are preparing for the brinjal seedlings to be transplanted in.

How to sow your Brinjal, Egg plant and Aubergine seeds

It is recommended that you sow brinjals in seed beds or seed trays if you are a beginner vegetable gardener. Do bear in mind that some of the brinjal seeds may just happen to be an empty shell; these brinjal seeds are usually darker in appearance. (TIP: Sow more seeds than you intend planting to compensate for the empty-shelled brinjal seeds.)

Sow your brinjal seeds about fingernail depth and a hand width apart if you are sowing more than one row of brinjal seeds. Use a watering can to water the brinjals seeds thoroughly after sowing. Brinjals seeds take about ten to fourteen days to germinate.

After germination the brinjal seedlings will require a further five weeks in the seed trays before they can be transplanted. In those five weeks the brinjals seedlings would have grown as high as the knuckle of your index finger. At this stage the brinjal seedlings is ideal candidates for transplanting into a garden bed or even a container, depending on where you plan on cultivating your brinjals.

Plant the brinjal seedlings slightly deeper than it stood in the seedbed or seed tray where you are transplanting them from.

Taking care of your Brinjals, Egg plants and Aubergines

Your brinjal plants will thrive if you dress them with a liquid manure or a compost tea every three weeks during their growing season.

Always water in the fertilizers and additional nutrients after they have been applied to the brinjal plants in the garden soil.

Water your brinjal plants regularly and do not be afraid to be the organic gardener, make use of mulch in and around the brinjal beds.

Be vigilant for pests such as cutworm and snails and keep weeds to a minimum.

Do not hesitate to stake your plants as the brinjals can become quite heavy.

Provide adequate protection for brinjals against hail and frost damage.

How to harvest your Brinjal, Egg plant and Aubergine crop

Upon maturity brinjal fruits can grow quite large in comparison with other vegetables that also belong in the same family. Once your brinjal fruit reached a diameter of approximately four to five fingers, you can pick the brinjals. You can expect anywhere between ten to twelve fruits per plant in your harvest. This is obviously dependent on how well you cared for your brinjal plants while they were growing and whether they grew well.

Always use secateurs to cut off the brinjals when harvesting. The brinjals can be harvested when the fruits are still glossy. Do handle your home-grown brinjals with care as they bruise easily. Once picked, the fruit should not be stored too long.

The brinjal fruits do not have to be fully grown to harvest. Test the brinjal with your finger and if it gives just a little and it has filled in good and is shiny, then by all means, you may harvest your brinjals. Usually after about three months or twelve weeks.

Harvest the brinjals regularly. The more you harvest brinjals the sooner more fruit-bearing flowers will develop. The young plants provide the most bountiful crop.

Troubleshooting Brinjal, Egg plant and Aubergine crop failure and growing pains

Brinjals, Egg plants or Aubergines way too small when matured

Snip out the growth points and the excess of the flowers that forms to produce quality brinjals instead of quantity.

Brinjals, Egg plants or Aubergines not available long enough

You may harvest brinjals anytime (depending on the weather conditions and consequent growth) from the twelfth week after transplanting them. Harvesting can occur over several weeks. However do not wait too long to harvest else the brinjals may become overripe and bitter.

Brinjals, Egg plants or Aubergines too few

Brinjals should preferably be planted as an annual as the new plants are the best performers when it comes to providing many fruits. You plants may be a bit too old to be prolific providers.

Brinjal, Egg-plant or Aubergine Stir-fry

This recipe is enough to serve three to four people.

  1. Sprinkle a fresh, thinly sliced brinjal with a little salt and allow to stand for about half an hour.
  2. Rinse the brinjal and pat dry.
  3. Lightly fry the brinjal in a large cast iron pot or a wok.
  4. Then add:
    • 1 cup of finely chopped onion.
    • 1 clove of finely chopped garlic.
    • 1 cup of thinly sliced mushrooms. (The button mushrooms works excellent.)
    • 1 and a half cup of finely chopped, peeled tomato.
    • 1 cup of chopped celery.
    • Half a cup of chopped parsley.
    • 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme.
    • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander.
    • 2 teaspoons of honey.
    • The juice of one lemon.
    • Black pepper and salt to taste.
  5. Stir-fry briskly for about five minutes and serve with a crostini or ciabatta bread.