Overview: Eggplant fruits are usually a dark purple color, but can also be white, pink, green, or black. An eggplant can grow to be a variety of shapes and sizes. Similar to tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers, eggplants are part of the nightshade plant family (Source: Almanac).

Most eggplants have a similar taste, however, they may vary in sweetness or sourness. Eggplants have a meaty, spongy texture, which helps the fruit absorb flavors when used for cooking.

Seed Starting: Eggplants are frost sensitive and typically require a long, warm growing season. Prime growing temperatures are between 68º and 86ºF. Start seeds indoors, sowing 3-6 seeds per section and ¼ of an inch deep in flats or peat pots (Source: Almanac).

Growing Advice: Once temperatures are between 70° to 75°F, set seedlings in holes 24 to 30 inches apart in rows, approximately 3 feet apart from one another (Source: Almanac). Immediately after planting, set 24-inch-high stakes 1 to 2 inches from each plant in order to provide support.

Eggplants mature in about 50 to 75 days from transplanting from indoors to outdoors. Typically, the fruit requires a total of 100 to 140 days until time of harvest (Source HarvestToTable).

The most common eggplant pests are lace bugs and flea beetles. When the fruit is young, collars and row covers can be used in order to prevent attacks. Natural predators, such as ladybugs, can also help minimize the pest problems.

Harvesting Advice: An eggplant is ready to harvest when the inner flesh is cream-colored, the fruit is firm, and there are no visible seeds. Leaving an eggplant to harvest too long may cause a bitter taste, tough skin, or large seeds (Source: Gardening Know How).

When it is time to harvest, cut a short piece of stem above the cap attached to the top of the eggplant. The best place to store eggplants is at room temperature, or in a pantry.

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

This non-fry sheet-pan eggplant parmesan is less oily and more delicious!


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • Kosher salt 
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus more torn leaves for serving 
  • 1 medium-large eggplant (about 1 ½ pounds), sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds 
  • ⅓ cup all purpose flour 
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup italian-style breadcrumbs 
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced 
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan

Cooking Directions

Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Step 2: Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in the chopped basil.

Step 3: Line up 3 shallow dishes; fill one with flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt. Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour (tapping off excess), then dip in the egg, and finally dredge it in the breadcrumbs.

Step 4: When all the eggplant slices are breaded, carefully remove the heated sheet pan from the oven and brush it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the eggplant on the sheet pan in a single layer. Bake until the undersides are crisp and browned 8 to 10 minutes, then flip the slices and continue baking until they are golden on the second side, 8 to 10 minutes more.

Step 5: Top the baked eggplant with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Return the pan to the oven and bake, rotating halfway through, until the cheese melts and browns and the sauce is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Top with torn basil before serving.

Written By: Natalie Calkins