SOLANUM melongena 'Black Beauty'
Plant Common Name
Black Beauty Eggplant, Eggplant
Introduced over 100 years ago, the venerable ‘Black Beauty’ stands out for its large, glossy fruits, vigorous growth, and hefty crops. Over the growing season, one plant can yield up to fifteen big, oval, purple-black fruits weighing as much as 3 pounds (1.4 kg) each. The generous size and delicious flavor of this eggplant make it a favorite for slicing and frying, dips, and for the traditional Italian dish, eggplant parmigiana. Plants take around 80 days to harvest fruits if starting with robust seedlings, or 120 days after sowing seeds.
Eggplant is an easy, warm-season vegetable that’s well worth the effort. Though perennial in its native Africa and Asia, most gardeners grow it as an annual vegetable crop. The felty green leaves of eggplant sometimes have a purplish hue and appear on bushy, upright plants. When temperatures and warm and accommodating, star-shaped lavender flowers with protruding yellow anthers appear on mature plants followed by fruit. For best flavor and smaller seeds, pick the fruits just before they reach full size. Size varies from cultivar to cultivar; some fruits are “baby” sized and others very large. It pays to pick fruit at the peak of perfection; overripe plants develop dull, soft skin and flesh and an unpalatable taste, and under ripe fruits tend to have tough, bitter skin.
Like many warm-season vegetables, eggplant grows best in full sun and light, rich garden loam. Feed and water regularly for best performance and harvest. The fruits can become quite heavy, so it is wise to stake the plants. Floating row covers, pyrethrin sprays and/or insecticidal soap will help provide protection from flea beetles, which otherwise will ravage or even kill plants. These tiny, shiny, black bugs are the most prevalent eggplant pest. They chew lots of small, poked holes in the leaves, which weaken plants and diminish yields. Eggplant is strictly a summer crop in temperate gardens but in tropical and sub-tropical regions, it is grown in fall and even winter gardens. If starting plants from seed, start indoors several weeks before planting, and plant outdoors two weeks after the danger of frost has passed.
Eggplants are best eaten sautéed, roasted or in casseroles or stews. Most cultivars have tough, leathery skin that should be removed before cooking. If provided good care, a single plant will produce lots of fruits for moussaka, eggplant parmigiana, or ratatouille.
Most eggplants are bred for eating, but some are highly ornamental and will also add interest to flower gardens or containers.