Eggplant has a nice mixture of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Many of the phytonutrients, like phenolic compounds and flavonoids, are antioxidants. One flavonoid, nasunin, protects the membranes around each cell. Especially important because cell membranes control traffic in and out of each cell, contain receptors for messenger compounds that tell the cell what to do and are the protective barrier between inside and outside. Among phenolic compounds, chlorogenic acid is a potent antioxidant in highest concentrations. With flavonoids, these compounds disarm free radicals in many locations to help stop oxidative cell damage (which could develop into cancer), help relax blood vessels, lower cholesterol and plaque buildup, help ward off microbes and viruses and reduce free-radical stress in joints, a primary part of arthritis development. Eggplant also has fiber, potassium and several B vitamins to help promote healthy metabolism, digestion and nerve/muscle function. All these benefits are low-cost, because eggplant is low in fat and sugar.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – B1 (Thiamin), B6 (Pyridoxine), B9 (Folate) and B3 (Niacin)
Minerals – Potassium, Manganese, Copper and Magnesium
Eggplant may help reduce risks for, or symptoms of, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, heart disease, cancer cell development, type II diabetes and others.
How to Grow
Eggplants are native to the tropics and do not produce through cold winters. Grown as annuals in cooler climates and perennials in warmer ones. Can be found as seeds or bought as young plants. An earlier variety will produce longer. Choose a sheltered site with full sun and well-drained soil. Amend the soil with aged compost, manure or planting mix. Grow best in soil with pH 6.5. If you live in a cooler region, you may need to warm up the soil by covering with black plastic weeks in advance. In cool climates, sow seeds indoors on a windowsill or under fluorescent light in early to mid-spring. A week or two before planting out, harden them off by bringing outdoors for increasing periods. In late spring, plant out 2 feet apart in rows underneath plastic row covers. In warmer climates, row covers not needed. Eggplants get bulky for stems to hold, so tie main stem to a stake in multiple places to provide weight support and keep them off the ground. Water when needed and monitor regularly to see how they grow. If they do not branch out from the main stem when they are 10 inches high, pinch out the growth tip. Also, limit fruits to about 5 per plant to ensure all get loaded with nutrients and grow in a healthy way. Remove extra flowers after about 5 have fruited and begun to develop. Treat soil each week with nutrient-dense liquid fertilizer like compost tea, manure tea or liquid seaweed. Begin harvesting eggplants in late summer when they are fully mature and shining.
Aphids, whitefly and red spider mite are common pests of eggplants. The spider mites thrive in dryness, so keep the plant moist by spraying regularly. Control aphids by planting French marigolds, which attract predators like hover flies and ladybugs that eat them by the thousands. White flies can be trapped in an old-style flytrap. They are attracted to the color yellow, so construct a trap by covering some yellow material with a sticky substance. Hang it near the plants at risk or under attack. Whiteflies fly into trap and get stuck in adhesive.
Harvest before eggplants lose their shine or they will taste bitter.