When growing exotics like white eggplants (Solanum melongena var. esculentum), it's not always easy to tell when the fruit is ready for picking, but even these ghostly varieties tell you when to harvest with their subtle signs.
White vs. Purple Eggplants
Eggplants, both the traditional purple varieties and the exotic-looking white ones belong to the group of culinary or edible eggplants listed under the scientific name Solanum melongena var. esculentum, or alternately Solanum esculentum__. They are frost-tender perennials which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 12. In the vegetable garden eggplants typically are treated as annuals in all climates.
Identifying Ripe Eggplants
White edible eggplants turn ivory or white when ripe and have a glossy sheen. Once overripe, the skin starts to take on a yellow hue and loses its shine. Ripe white eggplants feel firm to the touch with a slight give when pressed. Cut one open and the seeds will look white or cream. Once the seeds start to darken, the white eggplant is overripe. White eggplants take about 75 days from planting to harvest, with some variation depending on the individual variety. Overripe eggplants get spongy and take on a bitter taste.
How to Harvest
Put on gloves to protect your hands from the slightly prickly eggplant stems.
Hold the ripe white eggplant in one hand and cut through the thick stem right above the point where it attaches to the fruit. Eggplants have a green hat-shaped stem that grows over the top part of the fruit. Make your cut right above this point.
Sanitize your knife blade before harvesting other garden vegetables by soaking it for five minutes in a container filled with equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. Allow the blade to dry before closing or storing.
Edible White Eggplant Varieties
- 'Casper' (Solanum melongena var. esculentum 'Casper') is an ivory or cream white eggplant variety with mature fruits that grow 5 to 6 inches long. It has a delicate flavor and texture. 'Casper' takes 70 days to mature for harvest.
- 'Easter Egg' (Solanum melongena var. esculentum 'Easter Egg') looks a bit like an egg with its slightly oblong, rounded shape and white skin. This little edible eggplant that also has ornamental value and is ready for harvest 52 to 64 days after planting.
- The hybrid variety 'Gretel' (Solanum melongena var. _esculentum 'Gretel'_) is a miniature white eggplant with a mature size of 3 to 4 inches long. You can start harvesting 'Gretel' 55 days after planting. If you're looking for an eggplant to grow in a container, try this dwarf variety.
- 'Comet' (Solanum melongena var. esculentum 'Comet'), a hybrid eggplant variety that ripens to pure white, has 10-inch-long, 2-inch-diameter fruits. 'Comet' has thin, delicate skin and takes 70 days from planting to harvest.
- 'White Star' (Solanum melongena var. _esculentum 'White Star'),_ is a hybrid type with oblong, white-skinned fruit. This mild, slightly sweet eggplant variety takes 75 days from planting to harvest.