When to pick eggplant – for the perfect flavorful fruit

Learn when to pick eggplants for the most flavorful tender fruit with this guide

A purple eggplant on the plant
(Image credit: Alamy)

These sun-loving plants are the perfect addition to your summer table, so it is important to learn how to pick them from your garden to prevent damage and yield the best harvest. 

Learning how to grow eggplant can be a little tricky and requires the right climate and care - luckily, however, picking eggplant is straightforward so you can easily reap the rewards of your hard work. 

Because these fruits make the vegetable garden idea, learn how and when to pick eggplants for the best harvest and a tender crop.  

When to pick eggplant 

A purple eggplant on the plant

(Image credit: Alamy)

The best time to pick eggplant is from mid-summer onwards, around the months of July to September. This can change based on what variety you have and the weather patterns during the growing process, however, so it is good practice to learn what the ideal eggplant looks and feels like before harvesting any of your well-deserved fruits. 

It is best to pick eggplants when they are slightly immature to prevent over-ripening. Overripe fruits taste bitter and their increased growing time means they are more likely to be stolen by garden pests and mammals. 

As a general rule of thumb, eggplants mature between 100-120 days after the seeds are planted or 60-85 days from a transplanted plant. 

How to know if eggplant is right for picking 

Eggplant is part of the same family as tomatoes, and like their red cousins, the eggplant's skin can tell you a lot about their ripeness. 

‘Ripe eggplants should be slightly firm to the touch with a glossy, even appearance’ explains Rachel Crow, garden editor for Homes & Gardens, ‘once an eggplant becomes dull they are overripe and can have an undesirable bitter taste.

‘You want to pick eggplants just before they turn ripe,’ Rachel continues, ‘the glossy purple shade we associate with eggplants is the result of a slightly immature fruit and it is at this stage that they offer their best flavor and texture.’ A ripe eggplant is often brown and spongy to the touch and tastes bitter.

Another way to check eggplant ripness if you are new to growing these crops is to cut into the fruit to check the flesh. In inside should be a cream color with visible seeds. As you become more practiced, you will not need to cut into the fruit. 

How to pick eggplant  

You need to be careful when picking eggplant as the plant can have thorns that may irritate the skin. Wearing long sleeves and gardening gloves is recommended when picking eggplants. 

Much like tomatoes, eggplants can bruise easily. ‘You need to treat eggplants carefully to ensure you protect the fruit and your hard work,’ warns Rachel. ‘Make sure to use sharp pruners or a knife to cut the stem of the eggplant just above the cap on top of the fruit. Using a dull instrument could damage the plant itself as well as your carefully grown fruit.’ 

The plant can produce eggplants throughout the growing and harvesting season, so it is worth checking our plant every few days for a few weeks to harvest eggplant fruits in their prime and for a heavy yield. 

How to store home-picked eggplant

Once picked, eggplants are best eaten straight away. If you need to preserve them or have too many, however, wrap your eggplants in paper towels to absorb excess moisture and then inside an unsealed plastic bag to allow for air circulation. Store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to four days.

The problem with storing eggplant in the refrigerator is that it can affect the quality and texture of the fruit, so it is best eaten sooner than later.

Will eggplant ripen after it’s picked?  

Eggplants can be ripened after harvesting but it can be a difficult process with varying results. Because eggplants are warm weather crops, you can attempt to ripen eggplants on your counter in your kitchen at room temperature. 

To speed up the process, wrap the eggplant in a paper bag with a banana or two. Banana fruits produce ethylene, the chemical that ripens fruit. The problem with this method, however, is that it can over-ripen the eggplant and cause rotting, so you need to be vigilant when checking your fruits. 

Once ripened, eggplants should be stored in the fridge and consumed before they turn soft or mushy. 

Chiana Dickson
Chiana Dickson

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.