James H. Schutte
SOLANUM melongena 'Pingtung Long'
Plant Common Name
Eggplant, Pingtung Long Eggplant
Some gourmet chefs consider 'Pingtung Long' the finest tasting Chinese eggplant on the market. A disease-resistant variety from Pingtung, Taiwan, the fruit's flesh is very sweet and tender with superb flavor. The beautiful long, banana-shaped fruits are brilliant violet. Each matures 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 centimeters) long and is no thicker than 2 inches (5 centimeters). The harvest season begins 115 days after sowing seeds, or 65 to 75 days when planted from robust seedlings.
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.
The attractive and productive ‘Pingtung Long’ is a worthwhile cultivar for the edible landscape. Whether planted in kitchen gardens, borders or containers, its attractive fruits and lavender flowers will add ornamental interest and appeal.