White eggplants, also called Easter white eggplants and garden eggs, are an increasingly popular alternative to their more common purple cousin. Available in a wealth of shapes, sizes, and flavors, they make a delicious addition to any garden.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at how to grow white eggplants at home.
What is white eggplant?
There are many white eggplant varieties you can choose from if you want to grow your own.
One thing to bear in mind when buying seeds, especially those sold as ‘Easter egg plants,’ is that there are two main species of white eggplant:
- Solanum melongena: this is the eggplant we all know and love and the one most commonly used in cooking. All its variations, from Asian eggplants to European cultivars, are hybrids born from this species.
- Solanum ovigerum: an ornamental eggplant variety, also known as the ‘egg tree.’ It produces small, round fruits that look very much like eggs, and it’s grown as a food crop in parts of Africa. However, there’s quite a bit of debate on whether the Easter egg plant is edible. The fruit is small, crunchy, and bitter, so even if all food experts agreed that you could eat it, it wouldn’t make a delicious meal.
Looking for some unique white eggplants to grow in your garden?
Here are some varieties to look out for:
- Clara: one of the most popular varieties, this Italian hybrid produces a long white eggplant that is similar in size and shape to the standard purple eggplant;
- Paloma: Clara’s little sister produces smaller fruit with a mild taste and tender texture;
- Casper: produces thin, elongated fruit, usually about 6 inches (15 cm) long, with a meaty texture;
- White Comet: a variety of Japanese white eggplant, with long, slender fruit up to 10 inches (25 cm) in length and a pleasant, sweet taste;
- Ghostbuster: similar to White Comet in appearance, it’s only about 7 inches long (18 cm) and has a very creamy texture;
- Thai white: a hybrid from Thailand produces a ball-shaped, small white eggplant, usually around 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide, with a mild bitterness that works wonderfully in curries.
Is there a difference between white and purple eggplants? Well, color is the main differentiator, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. White eggplants tend to have thicker skin, and as a result, it’s best to peel them before cooking. They also have more seeds but a milder, less bitter, and acidic taste.
How to grow white eggplant
Let’s go over the basics just in case:
- White eggplants are a warm-season crop that reaches maturity in 3 to 4 months;
- They need plenty of sun, water, and nutrients for an abundant harvest;
- Staking the plants helps support the weight of the fruit;
- You can grow white eggplants in the garden soil as well as containers.
Read on for the complete guide on how to grow your white eggplants.
Growing eggplant outdoors
The best time to grow white eggplants is mid-spring, once temperatures are consistently above 50°F (10°C). If you live somewhere with mild winters, you can sow the seeds in the garden directly. Otherwise, it’s best to start them indoors, at least one month in advance.
The main thing to remember is that white eggplants take a long time to reach maturity. That means growing them indoors will give you a head start and a more extended fruiting season.
Start by germinating your white eggplant seeds indoors, about 6 or 8 weeks before the weather is warm enough to move them to your garden. The seeds are small and easy to grow and don’t need to be soaked in advance.
We recommend growing them in compostable seedling pots, about 2 inches (5 cm) wide. Fill each pot with a rich soil mix, place one seed per pot, and cover with a thin layer of soil.
White eggplant seeds need warm temperatures to germinate, ideally around 75°F (24°C). Keep the seedling pots in a warm room, and use a hand pump to mist the soil regularly.
After 5 to 7 days, you should start seeing the tiny seedlings appear. Make sure to keep the plants warm and the soil moist. If the plants get too big, you can transplant them into bigger containers. Once any frost has passed, you can start hardening the plants by taking them outdoors for a few hours each day.
– Location and Soil
While your eggplants are growing indoors, it’s time to prepare your garden soil. White eggplants should be grown in full sun or in a part of your garden that gets at least 6 hours of sun each day.
The best soil for eggplants should be light, loamy, rich in nutrients, and well-draining, with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. Make sure to incorporate plenty of compost, which will give the young plants a boost of nutrients and help with drainage.
– Spacing and watering
Transplant your young white eggplants to the soil, spacing them out around 25 inches (63 cm) apart. Water them well, and keep the soil moist throughout the season. White eggplants need plenty of water but are very susceptible to root rot. The secret is to ensure that the soil is well-draining and keep the plants well-watered once the fruit is starting to set.
On average, white eggplants can grow between 3 and 4 feet tall (90 to 120 cm) and about 3 feet wide. Depending on the variety, the fruit can weigh anywhere between 3 ounces (85 g) and 1 pound (450 g). To help support the fruit’s weight and prevent the plants from falling over, we recommend staking your white eggplants as they grow.
– Ideal conditions for growing eggplants
What is the secret to growing white eggplants that don’t taste bitter?
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Temperature: the ideal temperature for growing white eggplants is between 70°F and 85°F (21°C to 29°C). Anything too high or too low, and the fruit will either not set or develop an unpleasant taste.
- Light: white eggplants and shade don’t get along. If your plants are getting less than 6 hours of direct sun per day, or if they’re grown in partial shade, their growth can become stunted and the fruits bitter.
- Water: once you notice that your white eggplant is starting to produce fruit, make sure to keep them well watered. You can also add a layer of mulch at the base of the plants to help retain moisture. Insufficient watering can stress the eggplants, and the resulting fruit will be small and bitter.
- Fertilizer: give your white eggplants a boost by applying a liquid, organic fertilizer solution when you start noticing the fruit. Continue feeding them every month during the fruiting season.
Most varieties of white eggplant take between 100 and 120 days to reach maturity when grown from seeds or around 75 days after they have been transplanted. Depending on when they were planted in your garden, the eggplants can be harvested starting mid-summer, with the fruiting season lasting until mid-autumn if the weather is mild. The fruit is usually between 4 and 7 inches (10 to 18 cm), depending on the cultivar.
It would be best if you harvested white eggplants before the skin turns yellow. Ripe eggplants should feel firm to the touch but not hard, with white, glossy skin. Give the eggplant a light tap: if it makes a dull sound, that’s also a sign that it’s ripe and ready to be picked. If you give the eggplant a light squeeze and it leaves a dimple-like mark, that’s a sign that it’s too ripe and that it will taste bitter.
White eggplants tend to be bitter when they’re either too ripe or not ripe enough. If you pick them too soon, you can leave them to ripen a bit more by keeping them in a paper bag at room temperature for a few days. For overripe eggplants, you can try soaking them in salty water before cooking. However, this won’t get rid of the bitter taste or improve the soft texture.
White eggplants have small spikes on their stems. When harvesting them, make sure to wear a pair of gardening gloves to prevent skin irritation. Use a pair of gardening scissors and cut the eggplant from the vine. Try to leave about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of stem attached to the fruit, as this will help it last longer after it’s been picked.
Once harvested, white eggplants should be cooked as soon as possible. Ideally, they should be eaten in 1 or 2 days. But, if you can’t use them straight away, you can wrap them in paper towels, then loosely cover them in plastic wrap and store them in the vegetable drawer for up to 5 days. It’s best to keep in mind that these vegetables are pretty delicate.
If stored for too long, the skin can become soft, bruised, and increasingly bitter with each passing day.
White eggplants are annual plants, and they do not tolerate frost. When the harvesting season is over, cut them down, add them to your compost bin, and start next year anew.
White eggplants can be an absolute joy to cook with, making a tasty addition to any meal. They have a smooth, creamy texture and a mildly sweet, even nutty taste. Unlike purple eggplants, they are best peeled before use, as their skin can be pretty thick.
They pair wonderfully with all types of cheese, basil, garlic, chilies, and tomatoes, and they’re also quite versatile. Bake, grill, or sauté them, add them to curries, soups, and stews, or even use them as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes.
With a few tricks, growing white eggplants at home is a piece of cake.
Let’s take a look over the basics:
- As a warm-season crop, it’s best to germinate white eggplant seeds indoors before transplanting outside to ensure a longing fruiting season;
- Plenty of sunlight, warm temperatures, a good amount of watering, and occasional fertilizer are the secrets to a healthy harvest;
- By providing support, you can be sure your white eggplant will produce a good amount of fruit.
Now all you need to do is choose the variety you like best and grab a pack of seeds!
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