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If you are a home cook or a professional chef, creating new dishes can be a euphoric experience. However, every cook knows that culinary inspiration can happen at a moment’s notice, and it’s essential to have versatile ingredients on standby to create your next masterpiece. Eggplant is one of these foods that you should never run out of. It’s highly versatile, and you can create various mouth-watering dishes with it. And by growing Eggplant in aquaponics gardens, you will never have to worry about your supply.
In this article, we will provide you with some of the most practical yet crucial knowledge that can help you grow the best Eggplant in your own aquaponics system.
Why Grow Eggplant in Your Aquaponics Garden?
Eggplant is a fruit and not a vegetable. It’s a member of Solanaceae or nightshade family and closely related to potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. According to studies, Eggplant may have originated in India.
Historically, the eggplant has been used for more than just culinary purposes. Ladies in the earlier centuries used the plant to create a black dye. They use it to stain their teeth, which they will polish after.
Today, it is one of the most sought after ingredients in various cuisines. You can create Mediterranean, Indian, Thai, Spanish, and Asian dishes among many others. The popularity of Eggplant is ever-increasing as well. In fact, in countries like Australia, the production of this fruit grew by more than 10% in just six years. This is not surprising considering its uses and health benefits. In the coming years, we expect more people growing Eggplant in aquaponics gardens.
Types of Eggplant
There are four types of Eggplants that you can grow. They are the Black Beauty, Ichiban, Little Fingers, and Easter Egg. Let’s explore some of the key characteristics of each:
This is the type of Eggplant commonly grown commercially and is considered the favorite of gardeners. If you have a short growing season, we recommend choosing this type of Eggplant because it grows faster than the other varieties.
Ichiban Eggplants are known to be more resistant to droughts. Growers should be careful in watering this plant as overdoing it can cause the roots to rot. This is a longer type of Eggplant, which can grow up to 9 inches. Ichiban is ideal if your recipe involves grilling or roasting.
Little fingers are usually harvested before reaching maturity. Having said that, its taste is sweeter compared to other types. If your area has a cooler temperature, growing Little Fingers Eggplant will suit you best.
This type literally looks like miniature Eggplants, and you might even want to use it as an ornament. It starts to grow as a white fruit before turning into a different color like yellow, green, or orange. It does look like a hen’s egg at first glance. While it is not recommended for eating, there are some people who still consume this type of Eggplant.
How to Serve Eggplant From Your Aquaponics Garden
We couldn’t stress enough how versatile this Eggplant is. This goes without saying that you can prepare and serve it in different ways. But in most cases, preparing your Eggplant does not require removing the skin. This fruit can get soggy after cooking, and that is why it needs the skin to retain its shape.
Some people prefer seasoning their Eggplant with herbs and spices before baking it. Other people favor grilling, while some would fry it together with other ingredients. If you want to use it as a garnish or to add it to your stew, then that’s all possible. You practically have limitless options with this fruit.
Health Benefits of Eggplant
Eggplant is known as a good source of copper, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin K, folate, and fiber. You can also find traces of chlorogenic acid. Based on studies, there are a number of health benefits that you can enjoy when you consume Eggplants. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Improves digestion
- Promotes better heart health
- Prevents certain types of cancer
- Strengthens bones
- Prevents anemia
- Improves brain and mental health
Cultivating Eggplant in Your Aquaponics Garden
Growing Eggplant in aquaponics gardens requires learning basic information such as the best system to use, the right pH level, and the perfect temperature, naming a few. Below are some general guidelines that will help you be successful:
Aquaponic System Types
Eggplants can have very large root systems. Thus, we recommend using a media bed. This is great for new growers because, amongst all the aquaponics systems, the media bed is the easiest to set up. Most backyard gardeners use this as well.
Your Eggplant will thrive in neutral to slightly acidic pH levels. Make sure that you keep it between pH levels 5.5 to 7.
Well-drained grow medium is best for your Eggplant. We suggest using perlite, expanded shale, or pea-sized gravel.
Water and Air Temperature
Eggplants love warm temperatures and will grow best at 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature goes below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, it can pose a danger to your plant. Other growers are using artificial heaters to adjust the temperature.
When you are planting Eggplants, we recommend that you provide around 30 inches of space in between.
Your Eggplant will enjoy the full sun. By exposing your plants for 14 hours, it will have its needed nutrients and can produce bigger fruits.
There are several fish types that you can use when you grow Eggplant in your aquaponics systems. But the best fish we recommend is Koi. These are hardy and can survive in almost all conditions. Koi is also low-maintenance and is perfect if you are just new in aquaponics.
In addition, you can also use ducks for aquaponics. This is not a common choice but is also a good option. Ducks provide high amounts of nutrients, and you can get eggs and meat.
You can start harvesting your Eggplants after 3 to 4 months from seed. If you use transplants, it should be ready for harvesting after 85 days.
You can conduct a simple test to see if your Eggplant is ready for harvesting. Check if the skin is already glossy. You can also press the skin and if it bounces back without traces, then that’s the right time for you to harvest. Use a sharp knife when removing the fruit from its stem.
There are several pests that could affect the growth of your Eggplants. The common ones are aphids, mites, lace bugs, Colorado potato beetles, and Tomato hornworms, to name a few. But the worst type of pest is the flea beetles.
Most growers surround their Eggplant with diatomaceous earth so that pests will not be able to crawl onto your plants. In addition, you can use garden netting to protect the plants.
There are two common Eggplant diseases, namely Blossom-end rot and Cercospora leaf spot.
This disease might not be noticeable at first. But once it develops, you will notice that your Eggplant is turning black. This is caused by calcium deficiency. To prevent this from happening, keep the pH level to 6.5.
Cercospora leaf spot
One of the symptoms of Cercospora leaf spot is the spots on the plant’s leaves. These spots are circular with tan centers. When you notice that your plant has a disease, take it away before it affects other healthy plants. Also, if you are new to growing Eggplant in aquaponics gardens, we highly recommend choosing varieties that are disease-resistant.
As we end this post, we want to share with you a few additional facts about Eggplants.
- We do not encourage that you eat it raw due to its bitter taste
- Always wear protective gear such as gloves when harvesting Eggplants as most stems have tiny thorns
- Avoid planting your Eggplants in the same area where you plant tomatoes and corn