EGGPLANT

EGGPLANT

The scientific name of the eggplant is Solanum melongena and it belongs to the same family as the tomato. Its origin is thought to be Oriental and, in particular, specific to the territories of India and China. Its arrival in Europe is believed to be due to the Arabs, who spread it first in Spain and then in Italy, where it can be historically traced to the year 400. Nevertheless, its real culinary use in Italy was diffused only after 1700. The name derives from the Arabic term "badingian", to which our country prefixed the term "melo"—apple—thus becoming "melo-badingian", from which we get eggplant. In other parts of Italy, the prefix "melo" was replaced by the prefix "petro", for which texts up to the 1800's indicate the "melanzana"—eggplant—as being called "petronciani". The plant is shrub-like, with small thorns on the leaves covered with fine down. The flowers are lilac in colour and are hermaphrodites. Self-pollinating, it also has a good chance of cross-pollination. The eggplant, despite having a low nutritional value (only 18 Kcal / 100g), is one of the most adequate vegetables for diets as the high presence of fiber makes it very satiating, provided it is served without being combined with animal or vegetable fat.

CULTIVATION

Germination is quite slow. It requires 10-14 days at temperatures of 25 °C. For this reason, it is advisable to begin the cultivation with plants that already have 3-4 leaves. The cultivation period is from spring to summer, considering that the minimum biological temperature for development should be 9-10 °C and 30-32 °C maximum. The eggplant is more resistant to other Solanaceae during periods of low irrigation; however, for a good production both in terms of quantity and quality (sweeter fruits) it is recommended that it be watered regularly. The plant requires a soft, well-drained soil without stagnant water. It is preferable, even for eggplants, to be transplanted on raised soil placed in prose. One should transplant 3-4 plants per square meter. The plant, despite having a sturdy stem and being in upright position, would benefit from being supported, as the considerable weight of the fruit can determine its bending.

FERTILIZATION

Fertilization of the eggplant should take into account the significant removal of nitrogen and potassium. The ratio of removal of the principal nutrients (N, P, K) is 1:0,4:2,3. In this sense, a good fertilizer should provide about 1-3 kg / sqm of organic compost, together with 30 g / sqm of triple superphosphate, and 50g of potassium sulphate. During cultivation, one should add approximately 150g of ammonium nitrate, three separate times, on top of the soil. For those wishing to make an organic cultivation, it is enough to double the amount of compost and, on top of the soil, add three supplies of natural guano of about 100 g / sqm at a time, taking care not to scatter it on the leaves and to irrigate after fertilizing.

ADVERSITIES

The major diseases that can affect the eggplant concern the verticillium fungus that attacks various parts of the plant; powdery mildew, which attacks mainly the leaves; and Botritis cinerea, which attacks the flowers and fruits. Against these diseases, the accumulation of moisture both on the soil and on the foliar apparatus should be avoided (water early in the morning and evening). One can also intervene with preventive copper-based treatments for wilt and botrytis and sulfur-based treatments for powdery mildew. With regard to insects, the greatest damage may result from the whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) and Lepidoptera (Heliothis armigera and Spodoptera littoralis). With regards to the butterfly and the aphid, excellent results are obtained, in the case of the former, with the use of synthetic pyrethroids or screen attractants. For the latter, biocides such as Bacillus turingensis and pheromone traps are very effective treatments. The harvest takes place about 30 days after fruit set, when the fruit is still immature (becomes yellow when ripe). To harvest the fruit, it is good to use a knife to cut the stem and a pair of gloves to avoid the thorns. If the plant remains healthy, the production lasts all summer. When the plant, during cultivation, reaches too large a size (it can exceed a meter), it can be pruned and, after a substantial nitrogen-phosphorus fertilization, will regrow, giving plenty of new fruits.