How to tell when eggplants are perfect for harvest

This article has been updated. Please check our website for the most recent story.
Last Updated: 
September 30, 2005

CORVALLIS – Timing is everything when it comes to harvesting eggplants. It can make all the difference between a bitter, seedy eggplant and a perfectly delectable one.

There are ways to determine when eggplants are ready to harvest. Try cutting into one and looking for the tiny seeds, advises Jim Myers, vegetable breeder with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Overall, the best time to harvest eggplants is when the skin is glossy, but not too thick, the flesh is creamy white and the seeds are not yet visible.

As eggplant fruits develop and first fill out, the seeds cannot yet be seen. They become more obvious as the fruit matures.

“When seeds are really obvious, the eggplant isn’t fit to eat,” said Myers. “They build up bitter chemicals, and the skin gets tough with age.”

Eggplants are in the same family as tomatoes and peppers. Each flower has female and male parts - the ovary, with a pistil and a stigma (female parts) and the anthers (male parts). The anthers are arranged in a “cone” around the pistil, shedding pollen on the stigma when the time is right.

Once an eggplant’s ovary is fertilized, it enlarges to form the eggplant. The male anthers simply dry up and disappear.

Ultimately, if you let an eggplant grow to “old age,” it will be very seedy and bitter.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Jim Myers