How and When To Pick Eggplant

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If you are new to growing eggplant, there are some misconceptions on when to pick these tasty black (or purple) vegetables. When visiting your local supermarket, they usually have these huge eggplant that are flavorless and bland. You do not have to go the same route though, because you can decide what to grow, how to grow it, and most importantly, when to harvest it.

To Pick Or Not To Pick, That Is The Question

There are a couple factors to consider when deciding to pick eggplant:

  • Size – I like to pick my eggplant when they get to be a little bigger than my hand. As with other vegetables, it is better to pick eggplant when they are young and tender. Picking them early will also encourage the plant to grow more, and will help to extend the growing season. The eggplant does not have to be those behemoths you see at the supermarket.
  • Shine – An eggplant is ready for the picking when it gets a nice reflective sheen to it. Grasp an eggplant you might think is ready, and carefully hold it up to the light – if it appears to be very shiny, it is ready.

How To Pick Eggplant

When you have found an eggplant that is ready to pick, first grasp it carefully with one hand, and raise it up a bit to get a better look. Remember, the eggplant should be a little bigger than your hand (or around that size), and have a nice shine to it.This is a ‘Black Beauty’ variety eggplant.

Eggplant Ready To Be Picked

This is a good eggplant to pick! Be careful when grabbing an eggplant, most varieties have some sharp thorns on the stem and around the top of the eggplant. You’ll know when you get hold of one.

Watch for Sharp Thorns on Some Eggplant Varieties

Picking the eggplant is simple and straightforward. Grasp the eggplant and carefully raise it up as in the first picture. Use a pair of sharp scissors or garden shears, and cut the eggplant at the stem. Make sure the scissors or garden shears are good and sharp – eggplant stems can be very tough to cut. It is better to cut the eggplant off rather than pulling or twisting it, which can damage the plant and leave you with broken limbs or worse – a broken plant.

Snip the Eggplant From The Bush With Garden Shears

There it is! You have just picked an eggplant and it is a beauty!

Eggplant After It Has Been Picked From Bush

Before long you will have a mess of eggplant for all your favorite eggplant recipes!

Harvested Eggplants

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Comments

  1. I have an eggplant that is cute as beans and a little bigger than a hand.. but it looks pink in the sun more than dark.. what’s the deal? It is my first baby eggplant and I want to pick it at the right time! What do you think? by the way great information above!!

    Jen-jeni

    • Hi Jen-jeni,

      I’m glad you find the information useful, and thank you for commenting. The color and shape of an eggplant can vary greatly from one variety to another. Could you tell me what variety you are growing? This may help to determine what’s going on with the pinkish color. If you have a picture of the eggplant that would be very helpful as well. You may send the picture to my email address: teeriddle@veggiegardener.com. I will respond as soon as I can.

      I’m excited about your eggplant, and glad you are having success growing them.

      Happy Gardening,

      Tee Riddle

      • hi,i just wanted to say that i found your information right on target.the eggplants i picked were perefect the best i ever had.thank-you,Jack

  2. Hi – I’ve got some really nice size black beauty eggplants growing. A couple of ‘em are really large, but their skins are not turning that shiny dark purple color. They’re a little soft to the squeeze, but still kinda rigid. But not dark, kinda maroon. One or two are, but most are not. In fact, two of them are quite large, but still green! Is something wrong with them? Thanks, Eri

  3. Sophia Lousteau says:

    This is the best answer of when to pick my eggplant. It is clearly written and, best of all others, there are pictures to show me the look of a matured eggplant. Thank you very mush!

  4. Thank you so much for indicating the right time to pick my egg plant. My egg plant is a little larger than my hand and nice and shinny. So far my plant has only produced 1(one) egg plant but has lots of blossoms..Also no
    bees ever came to pollinate the flowers….

    • This is the first time growing eggplant (black beauty). I read up on it and I have noticed that alot of people have the same problem, alot of flowers but no or very few eggplants. I noticed this myself on my own plants. I’ve looked up how to hand pollenate and it’s one of those things where they say it’s simple, just take a little brush or Q-Tip and get some pollen on there from the anther and then rub it on the stigma. But finding the pollen was a little tougher for me. I actually had to resort to taking a few blossoms from the plants and splitting the little yellow things in half to get the pollen out, then rub your brush in there, and then you can swipe it along the tip of the stigma ( little green thing in the middle of the flower ). I have noticed that there are little clusters of smaller, thinner stemmed flowers that pop up above the “main” flower, I have heard those are the “males” even though they are supposed to be self-pollenating. I take the pollen from these flowers when I hand pollenate. Hope this helps! Here is a great page to learn more :) http://hydroponicoutdoorgreenhouse.blogspot.com/2010/09/first-eggplant-fruit-finally.html

  5. So glad I found your post. I’ve planted eggplant, and I had no idea when it should be picked. It doesn’t have that glossy sheen as you have described, so glad I didn’t harvest it.

    • Hi Rhonda – Yes, the shininess of the eggplant is a good indicator that it is ready to be harvested. Keep in mind though that you do not necessarily have to wait until then. Eggplant can be harvested any time it gets to a size of your liking. But when it starts having that glossy sheen you do not want to wait too much longer and it doesn’t taste as good once it’s been on the plant too long.

  6. This is my first year growing and harvesting eggplants. I’ve cooked a couple of them right away. They’re delicious! I noticed though that the freshly cut (fresh) eggplant seems to oxidize VERY quickly. MUCH more quickly than store-bought eggplant. For example, in the past, when I make up eggplant Parmesan from store-bought eggplant, I could put sliced eggplant in the fridge and it would last for a few days. However, with the ones I pick from my garden, they are beautiful when cut, but within hours are brown and soggy feeling. Is this pretty common? Is there anything I can do to extend the life of my garden-fresh eggplant aside from not cut it? Thanks!

    • Hi Amy – You don’t see the browning with store bought eggplant because they use all types of stuff to preserve the produce so it will last longer while traveling from the fields to the store, then sit in a store for weeks and weeks.

      With your freshly grown eggplant you will have a little faster spoilage because you don’t have those added preservatives.

      I asked some canning expert friends how to keep the eggplants from browning so quickly after being cut. They advised to give the cut eggplant a dip in lemon juice, or other citric fruit. The citric acid will help to preserve the eggplant and keep it from browning so quickly.

      I hope this helps and thanks for your question!

      • Amy Latka says:

        I hadn’t thought about preservatives on the “fresh” veggies. Thanks for the info! I will be using lemon juice to keep mine a little fresher, longer. :)

      • There’s a great product out there (basically, it’s just citric acid– ascorbic acid will work too) called “fruit fresh” (it’s most notably used for keeping apples from oxidizing, but the same principle applies to a lot of different fruits, including eggplants)… you can sprinkle a little of this on sliced eggplants, or just soak them a few minutes in cold water with a little lemon juice added to it. Fruit that oxidizes quickly is a GOOD thing, not a bad thing… the “ultrapasteurized milk” served in little cartons a lot of places have expiration dates stamped on them that are 4-5 weeks out or more. Think about it: I can only speak for myself, but I don’t WANT my milk to stay “fresh” for over a month.

        If you grow your own eggplants (which you ought to, if you live in the right climate), don’t worry about trying to salvage every little last bit of them… they’re very prolific, so just pick another one :)

  7. Tee, was looking for ‘how and when to pick”. Thanks for having the straight forward information I was looking for. I grew my Eggplants in and old storage bin container. I was wondering about why I had alot of blooms, the whole male and female blossom thing had escaped me. I have 4 beautiful just about fist size Italian eggplants between two plants and tomorrow they will be turned into a wonderful eggplant parm. Thanks again! And to Amy, any citric acid, lemons , limes , oranges or you can get vitamin C from a local health food store. Dissolve in filtered water, and dip your slices or chunks in , then store. Learned that from canning fruits. Happy Gardening!

  8. Chris Bedker says:

    Thank you for the advice. This is mine and my wife’s time growing eggplant. I a little scared that the vines are going to attack my son when he is playing. They have now grown to 7 feet and some are starting to climb his tire. the vines also seem to be shooting off mini-roots into the grass, I found out when I tried to move a vine to cut the grass. Should I put some rabit fence up to let the eggplant climb on and will pulling the mini-roots from the ground hurt it. Thank you again for all the helpful info!!!!

    • Hi Chris – Your eggplant is 7 feet? Wow! I’ve never seen an eggplant grow like that before.

      If the plant is starting to take over the area then, yes, you can put up some chicken wire, or other fencing to contain it. The mini-roots you speak of can be moved if you need to. Just place them back on soil elsewhere and cover the area with a little loose soil and water it well. They should re-root themselves.

    • Eggplant VINES? I have never heard of such a thing.

  9. can you still use the eggplant if you waited too long to pick it?

    • Hi Heather – It depends on how long you left it on the plant. The eggplant can become mealy tasting, kind of grainy and not nearly as desirable a taste as one that’s picked at its prime. Technically, you can eat it, but it probably will not taste very good.

      You can leave one on the plant for a few days, maybe even a week. After that the taste will change drastically.

  10. Thank you! This is my first time trying to grow eggplants. Actually, it was on a whim that I picked up a few plants for On SALE at the grocery store. What an amusing plant! Pretty flowers, adorable fruit with an amazing growth rate.
    I have been tempted to pick but was not certain when was the right time. Thanks to you, now I know!
    So excuse me while I zip outside and collect my first harvest!
    Smiles!

  11. Hi,
    i planted a black beauty from a little tiny plant starter. It is growing like crazy and some eggplants are coming out black but others are still growing but are a light pink t greenish color? Any ideas. Are they still OK to eat if green? Could it be a soil deficiency of some sort?

    • Hi Joe – I would allow them to grow until they are ready to harvest. To be honest, I have no idea why some would be greenish. Very strange. If you would like can you take a picture of it then use the contact form on the Contact Page to send it to me? There’s a file uploader at the bottom of the form for attaching photos.

      Thanks!

      • Nutrient deficiencies can cause pigments not to develop properly. Minor nutrients, particularly metals, are necessary in trace amounts to produce a lot of plant pigments. The other big thing that plays a big role is pH. Side dress with composted manure (like Black Kow or something) and check the pH of your soil and adjust accordingly.

  12. i have a black beauty eggplant, my problem is they start out looking good. they don’t get as big as my hand, then they start turning green and yellow. i can’t figure out what the problem is. can u please give me some insight.

    • Hi Dean – I have been getting this question quite a bit lately. Generally the green/yellowish/brownish colorations are due to fruits becoming over ripe. Try harvesting the eggplants a bit sooner when they are still purple. This may mean harvesting them when they are smaller and not the “hand-size” that I mentioned in the article.

      Good luck!

      • thank u, they only the size of golf balls sometimes when they change colors. thank u very much

        • What variety of eggplant are you growing? Tee mentions that the COLOR varies greatly. The SIZE also varies greatly. Not all eggplants grow to the size of Black Beauty or similar varieties.

      • Hi Tee,

        I have the same problem. I am growing eggplant bonica the two fruit have turned yellow with some purple. The fruit is rock hard. I have been fertilising and have added blood and bone just last week. One fruit is smaller than the other, but not bigger than my hand. Please help if they are rock hard and turning yellow should I pick them? I live in the tropics, Australia.

  13. Hi, Tee and everybody else!
    I enjoyed reading all your very informative questions and replies.
    Three years ago I planted about 12 black beauties and they produced so much that last year I just planted 3. One survived undiscriminating mowing by a teenager!
    That one plant has been producing about 3 fruits at a time. It’s only about 2ft tall and about 3ft wide w/lots of branches. It survived last winter and this summer. I just picked 2 fruits and there is another one ready to be picked, and 2 more about an egg size. I also have seen the greenish strips on the dark purple skin but they taste great!
    My fruits don’t have spikes and I don’t know if the plant is “male” or “female” but it manages very well. I like to slice them thick, brush them w/olive oil and basil and oregano, place a round of red onion over it and maybe a slice of red pepper and bake them for about 35 minutes.

    Have a great harvest!
    Marla from Southern California Desert

    • They’re also great on a grill. Try them, or turnips, or pattypan squash, cut into rounds, just brushed with a little butter, s/p to taste. Really simple; really delish!

  14. I was wondering if I could replant eggplants from my garden and bring them indoors for the winter so I could continue getting more of them also can I do the same for my sweet and hot peppers. Thank you for any info. you can provide me with

  15. Thanks for the great info! My first attempt at a real garden didn’t go so well this year. The soil hear is really poor and we had a bad drought this summer. I’m on city water, so I had to watch my bill, too. I actually got a few eggplant plants to grow. Two of them have one eggplant each, and I was unsure of how long to let them go before picking. Looks like one is ready, and the other isn’t far behind. I’ve got a few more blooms so hopefully I’ll get a few more before it gets too cold here in SE Georgia.

  16. Hi,

    This is the first time we have ever planted a veggie patch and we’re not sure what variety of eggplant we have, but our plants are growing very fast. We’re just not sure when the eggplant is actually ready, the skin is dark and shiny, but inside the flesh is slightly green, I’m under the impression the flesh is white?
    Is this a sign the eggplants are not ready yet.

  17. Thank you for all the great info. Kept hoping a question would come up about the plants growing so large, giving one “round” of eggplant and thats it. Planted from seed and ended up with beautiful foot and a half plants. Grew two lovely eggplant on each plant and now have not flowered again. Do they need a “boost” of something or are they done.

  18. This is my first year to grow egglants. My plant is full of small eggplants. The first, and biggest, about the size of my hand, is shiny but yellow. Is the color a different variety or does it take a while to turn purple. We are anxiously waiting to enjoy our harvest.

  19. Hi. Thanks for the great info. This is my 3rd year growing eggplant, or should I say attempt. This time I read read read some more. There is so much info about insects I did not know. So I planted 4 in a raised bed and covered with silver mulch to deter pest. Helped a little but I did get aphids and microscopic flea beetles. I took to the task of finger smashing every day for a week and now I check all leaves once a week. Ants are a sure sign of aphids living under the leaves. So the plants responded well and looked amazing but then flowers were just falling off. I started hand pollinating with a small artist brush. Very easy just tickle the flower center briefly. I also fed with Agricola high octain mineral fertilizer and voila! I picked my first beautiful eggplant today. There are eggplants forming all over the place too. I can tell the flower is fertilized cause the flower stem will thicken and the green part will close and the blossom will fall. I also found some worms doing a little damage. I have been consistant with my pest control and I am being rewarded handsomely. I am a novice summer gardener and I still make a lot of mistakes but I am learning to research my crop before I plant so I can be armed and ready to fight for my garden. My plants arent that tall but they are branching out and they are so beautiful. I am planning my first fall garden ever in northern California. I am making grilled eggplant and zuccinni panini sandwiches tonight with arugula, basil and walnut pesto, and smoked mozzarella. Good luck to all beginner/novice gardeners like me who just want to eat our own fresh organic veggies! 8>)

  20. I have two varieties of eggplant this year, and they are doing really well. One type is the typical egg-shaped kind, with glossy purple flesh. They are slightly tender to the touch. The other kind is maybe a “Black Beauty,” but I’m not certain. The shape is less regular, with some ridging or rippling on the skin. The ones that are fist-sized are much harder on the exterior. Do they soften when they are ripe?

    Thanks!

  21. Growing fairy tale eggplants in a large pot. They start off purple, but then turn green as they get just a little larger, but still feel firm, not soft. Is this normal? Thanks.

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