Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a heat-loving member of the Solanaceous family. While it is generally grown as an annual, eggplant is actually an herbaceous perennial. Long a popular vegetable in Asian, Middle Eastern, Greek, and Italian cuisine, the eggplant was thought to have been first introduced to America by Thomas Jefferson.
Marketing options for Kentucky-grown eggplant include wholesale markets, farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, produce auctions, and roadside stands. Wholesaling is also an option through local market channels such as supermarkets and restaurants. Eggplant tends to be a lower-volume crop but can complement a farm’s vegetable marketing mix and add profitability to production. Point-of-purchase materials, such as recipes provided to farmers market and CSA customers, can help increase consumer familiarity with eggplant.
Eggplant varieties differ in shape (egg-shaped, oval, elongated, or round), size (standard and miniature), and skin color (purple-black, red, white, green, and bi-color striped). Growers should only select adapted varieties that have the qualities in demand for the intended market. Most common eggplant varieties are harvested when they reach a dark, glossy, uniform purple-black color. Colorado potato beetle is a key insect pest of this crop. Eggplant greatly benefits from the use of black plastic mulch with trickle irrigation.