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Eggplant



Eggplant

CULTURE: Sow in flats indoors in early April, or 8 weeks prior to planting out, 4 seeds/in., 1/4" deep. If possible, maintain 80-90F (27-32C) soil temp. until emergence, and 70F (21C) thereafter. Seed will not germinate in cool soil. After true leaves form, thin to 2-3" apart in flats or transplant into 2-3" pots or plug trays. To harden plants reduce water and temperature to about 60F (16C) for about a week before planting out. Transplant outdoors in mid-June or whenever weather has thoroughly settled. Eggplants are tender, and cold weather may weaken them. Use row covers (see Index) for a real boost in performance and insect control. Space transplants 18" apart in rows 30-36" apart, or 2 rows on poly mulch, 18-24" between plants. It is important to be mindful of over-fertility. Too much nitrogen often results in large, bushy plants that produce only one small set of fruit.
STAKING: Eggplants may be pruned and staked like tomatoes to keep the fruits straight.
DISEASE: Practice lengthy crop rotation to avoid verticillium wilt.
INSECT PESTS: Fabric row covers (see Index) are effective insect pest control. Control flea beetles on newly set transplants with pyrethrin or rotenone. Regularly check undersides of leaves and crush any orange egg masses of the Colorado potato beetles or control with Bt biological insecticide.
HARVEST: Clip fruit stem with shears. Pick fruits of desired size regularly to encourage further production.
DAYS TO MATURITY: From transplanting.
TRANSPLANTS: Avg. 3,500 plants/oz.
SEED SPECS: SEEDS/OZ.: 5,500-7,200 (avg. 6,000).
MINI: 0.125 gm. unless otherwise noted (avg. 25 seeds).


Eggplant


THE BENEFITS OF EGGPLANT

In addition to featuring a host of vitamins and minerals, eggplant also contains important phytonutrients, many which have antioxidant activity. Phytonutrients contained in eggplant include phenolic compounds, such caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, such as nasunin.

Brain Food

Research on eggplant has focused on an anthocyanin phytonutrient found in eggplant skin called nasunin. Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage. In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform.

Rich in Phenolic Antioxidant Compounds

Researchers at the US Agricultural Service in Beltsville, Maryland, have found that eggplants are rich sources of phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants. Plants form such compounds to protect themselves against oxidative stress from exposure to the elements, as well as from infection by bacteria and fungi.

The good news concerning eggplant is that the predominant phenolic compound found in all varieties tested is chlorogenic acid, which is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues. Benefits attributed to chlorogenic acid include antimutagenic (anti-cancer), antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral activities.

ARS researchers studied seven eggplant cultivars grown commercially in the U.S. and a diverse collection of exotic and wild eggplants from other counties. In addition to chlorogenic acid, they found 13 other phenolic acids present at significantly varying levels in the commercial cultivars, although chlorogenic acid was the predominant phenolic compound in all of them. Black Magic-a commercial eggplant cultivar representative of U.S. market types-was found to have nearly three times the amount of antioxidant phenolics as the other eggplant cultivars that were studied. In addition to their nutritive potential, the phenolic acids in eggplant are responsible for some eggplants' bitter taste and the browing that results when their flesh is cut. An enzyme called polyphenol oxidase triggers a phenolic reaction that produces brown pigments. Scientists have begun work on developing eggplant cultivars with an optimal balance of phenolics to ensure both optimal nutritional value and pleasing taste.