Eggplant with a difference

Courtesy of All-America Selections
GREAT GROWER: Hansel eggplant produces clusters of delicious fruit.

Eggplants are such good-looking vegetables that I might be tempted to grow them just for the exotic beauty they add to the garden.

But I enjoy eating eggplant, so it’s earned its place in my vegetable plot for more utilitarian reasons. Many years, however, I do try a new variety to see if I can find one that combines the best taste and appearance.

When I became an urban gardener, I wondered I should bypass eggplant. I assumed that the yield from one plant in a large container would be fairly low.

But I discovered some options. Last summer’s was the best yet: It’s an eggplant called Hansel, which is ideal for container growing.

It had almost everything I was looking for in a container eggplant: Plants that reached slightly less than three feet high and about 2-1/2 feet wide produced attractive clusters of three to six miniature purple fruits that had excellent taste and very few seeds.

Because Hansel is early-bearing for an eggplant, I didn’t have to wait all summer for the fruits to mature. (Count on about 60 days from transplanting to first harvest.)

Harvesting is one of the most interesting things about this plant. You can begin picking the long, thin fruits at 2 inches and continue harvesting at any size, until they reach about 10 inches long.

Because of the high yields, I staked my plants. I think that this year I might cage them. But I’m definitely going to be growing this All-America Selections winner once again.

Another eggplant I’d recommend to container gardeners is Fairy Tale, which has violet fruits with white stripes. The plants grows about 2-1/2 feet tall, and you can start harvesting in just 50 days from transplanting into your garden. The eggplants themselves are small but tasty.

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