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Publication #HS1243

Conventional and Specialty Eggplant Varieties in Florida1

Monica Ozores-Hampton 2

Eggplants (Solanum melongena L.) are members of the nightshade family Solanaceae. Cultural practices employed in eggplant production are similar to other agronomic members of the Solanaceae family, such as tomatoes and peppers. Eggplants are warm-season plants that are more vulnerable to cold temperatures than tomatoes. For most of the nation, eggplants are best suited for production during warmer months. However, in south Florida, where winters are mild and freezes are infrequent, eggplants are planted from August to March (Andersen 2013). Eggplants grow best when started from transplants initially grown in protected structures, such as greenhouses, and they prefer well-drained, sandy, and loam soil with temperatures between 70˚F to 85˚F (Doubrava and Miller 2003). Although eggplants are considered vegetables, botanically they are a fruit because they derive from an ovary. Because of their cooking versatility and ability to absorb flavor, eggplants are used in many cultural dishes and cuisines. Even though eggplants are not a high source of any vitamin or mineral, they can add color and flavor to dishes with minimal calories (one cup of cooked eggplant is 38 calories). Most eggplant varieties are fairly similar except for the size and skin, and they can be used interchangeably in recipes.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not collected complete domestic production statistics for eggplants since 2001 (Huntrods and Lore 2012). That year, US eggplant production was valued at $42.5 million, and Georgia, Florida, California, New Jersey, and New York were the top five producers. From winter 2007 to winter 2009, Florida’s average national market share for eggplants was 24%. In 2007, Florida was ranked second in eggplant production with 76 farms harvesting 1,173 acres (USDA 2009). California statistics for 2009 indicate the state harvested more than 17,300 short tons of eggplants valued at $11.8 million. In 2011, California was the largest eggplant producer with 1,446 acres (Thornsbury 2013). The average yield of eggplant is 762 bushels per acre (bu./ac.) with an approximate price price of $14 per 1/9 bushel box (in 2017) (USDA ARS 2017). Eggplants are sold during an approximate 10-month period throughout the year—with 25% harvested in the winter (January–March), 40% harvested in the spring (April– mid-July), and 35% harvested in the fall (mid-September­–December). South Florida is the main region for eggplant production in the state. The majority of the harvested acreage is in Palm Beach County, with significant production in Miami-Dade, Hendry, Collier, Manatee, Lee, and Hillsborough Counties. The remainder of eggplant production is distributed throughout the state (UF/IFAS Extension Hendry County director Gene McAvoy, personal communication).

Eggplant Varieties

Here is a guide to eggplant varieties commonly used in Florida (Table 1 and 2):

Table 1. 

Conventional, specialty, and heirloom eggplant varieties for Florida.

Type/Variety

Producer

Dealer

Season (Relative Maturity)

Characteristics of Plant and Fruit

Resistance

Comments

Typical American: Usually packed in a decaliter or a modified 1 1/9-bu. box and graded either "fancy" or "choice" with three sizes: giant (12–14 count), fancy (16–18 count), and small (20–24 count).

Classic

Harris Moran Seed Company

Clifton Seed Company, Harris Seeds, and Seedway

65 days

Plants are erect, vigorous, and tall. The upright plants support heavy yields of high-quality fruit, which becomes smaller as the plant matures. The oval fruit is elongated and glossy with a green calyx. The deep purple-black fruit has a fancy appearance and may turn a reddish color when mature.

R to ToM

Classic is the industry standard in dark-purple eggplants. The plants do not perform well in cooler weather.

Nadia

Vilmorin Vegetable Seeds

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Osborne Seed Company, Reimer Seeds, Siegers Seed Co., and Stokes Seeds Inc.

70 days

Plants are strong, tall, and vigorous. Plants produce high yields of oval, long, and very firm fruit. The attractive, purple-black fruit has a long harvest period.

R to ToM

Good fruit sets under cool conditions. The fruit has an excellent shelf life.

Night Shadow

Seminis

Osborne Seed Company, Siegers Seed Co., and Stokes Seeds Inc.

75 days

Plants are strong and widely adapted with a high-yield potential. Plants produce firm, elongated, and oval fruit that maintains a rich, glossy, and black color through harvest.

R to BES, TM, ToM

Plants have reduced blossom-end scar. Plants are suitable for freezing.

Santana

Syngenta

Chile Plants.com, Clifton Seed Company, and Siegers Seed Co.

80 days

Plants are tall, vigorous, and upright with few spines. Fruit has a firm, glossy, and black-purple exterior. The fruit has a white flesh with an attractive, bright-green calyx.

None

Plants continuously set. Early fruit is smaller (22–24 count).

Traviata

Enza Zaden

Harris Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Osborne Seed Company, The Natural Gardening Company, and West Coast Seeds

68 days

Plants are well balanced and produce fruit that is strong growing, high quality, and firm. Fruit look smaller (22–24 count) but are very uniform in size. Fruit has a very attractive, shiny, and purple color.

None

Plants are recommended for spring and summer protected crop and open field cultivation. Plants are continuous and have a very high overall production.

Organic seed available.

USDA—OGANIC

Sicilian: Usually packed in a decaliter box or a modified 1 1/9-bu. box.

Birgah

Seminis

Stokes Seeds Inc.

65 days

Plants have round, heavy, and firm fruit. Fruit has a deep-purple color and white flesh.

R to ToM

Fruit has a sweet taste.

Italian Pink Bicolor

Fratelli

Stokes Seeds Inc.

75 days

Plants have oval fruit with a creamy rose color that matures to a rose-pink color with a purple calyx.

None

Plants are open pollinated and suitable for freezing.

White: Usually packed in a half bu. box.

Ghostbuster

Harris Moran Seed Company

Clifton Seed Company, Harris Seeds, and Seedway

72 days

Plants are broad and semi-upright. Plants produce white, oval-shaped fruit that is 6­ to 7-inches long.

None

Fruit is sweeter and tastier than dark-skinned varieties. Fruit is best harvested early before it starts to turn yellow.

Italian: Usually packed in a half bu. Box

Megal

Vilmorin Vegetable Seeds

Chile Plants.com, Osborne Seed Company, Siegers Seed Co., Stokes Seeds Inc., and Reimer Seeds

62 days

Plants have Italian, cylindrical fruit with a purple-black color. Fruit is very uniform with only a few spines.

R to CM and TM, ToM

Fruit has an excellent shelf life and flavor. Plants are recommended for local markets and specialty growers.

Vittoria

Not available

Chile Plants.com, OSC Seeds, Reimer Seeds, Seeds of Change, and Sweet Corn Organic Nursery

61 days

Plants have very long cylindrical and deep-purple fruit with a green calyx.

R to TM

Fruit has a mild flavor. Organic seed available.

USDA—OGANIC

Japanese: Usually packed in a half bu. box.

Millionaire

Not available

Burpee, Evergreen Seeds, Jung, Kitazawa Seed Co., Osborne Seed Company, Reimer Seeds, Stokes Seeds Inc., and Territorial Seed Company

55 days

Plants have slender, oriental-type fruit that is dark purple. The fruit also has a purple calyx, soft skin, and tender flesh.

None

Plants are good for greenhouses, open fields, and home gardens.

Spanish or Dominican: Usually packed in a decaliter box or a modified 1 1/9-bu. box.

Zebra

Not available

Reimer Seeds and Morningsun Herb Farm

65 days

Plants have elongated and oval-shaped fruit. Fruit is variegated with purple and white stripes and grows about 8 inches long by 4 inches wide.

None

Fruit is very attractive and has a good flavor.

Table 2. 

Disease key to abbreviations.

BES

Blossom end scar

CM

Cucumber mosaic virus

TM

Tobacco mosaic virus

ToM

Tomato mosaic virus

R

Resistant

Figure 1. 

Classic


Credit:

Harris Moran Seed Company


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 2. 

Nadia


Credit:

Reimer Seeds


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

Night Shadow


Credit:

Monica Ozores-Hampton, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Santana


Credit:

Clifton Seed Co.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 5. 

Traviata


Credit:

High Mowing Organic Seeds


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 6. 

Birgah


Credit:

Monica Ozores-Hampton, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 7. 

Ghostbuster


Credit:

Reimer Seeds


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 8. 

Megal


Credit:

Monica Ozores-Hampton, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 9. 

Vittoria


Credit:

Reimer Seeds


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 10. 

Millionaire


Credit:

Burpee


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 11. 

Zebra


Credit:

Monica Ozores-Hampton, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

References

Andersen, C. R. 2013. Eggplant. Univ. Arkansas. Agri. and Natural Resources. Home Gardening Series FSA6010. 1 Sept. 2013. http://www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FSA-6010.pdf

Doubrava, N., and G. Miller. 2003. Eggplant. Clemson Univ. Coop. Ext. Home and Garden Info. Ctr. HGIC 1310. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/pdf/hgic1310.pdf

Huntrods, D., and J. Lore. 2012. Eggplant Profile. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC), Iowa State Univ. http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/vegetables/eggplant-profile/

Thornsbury, S., H. F. Wells, and J. Bond. 2013. “Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook Data.” US Department of Agriculture. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/ers/VEGANDPULSESYEARBOOK/2013/89011.pdf

US Department of Agriculture (USDA). 2009. 2007 Census of Agriculture.http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Full_Report/Volume_1,_Chapter_2_US_State_Level/st99_2_030_030.pdf.

US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS). 2017 ChicagoTerminal Prices. https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/hx_fv020.txt

Footnotes

1.

This document is HS1243, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2014. Revised October 2017. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Monica Ozores-Hampton, associate professor, UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL 34142.

UF/IFAS does not endorse the commercial varieties named in this publication, and references to them do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other commercial varieties.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.