Solid brinjals for all kitchens
Published on: Sunday, August 04, 2019

Stubby brinjals.
IN the early years of agriculture, the cultivation of brinjals yielded only fruits that were small in size – and the yield miserably low.  

As a tropical plant, the brinjal had a better and wider spread in the warmer areas by virtue of it being a warm climate plant.  It is commonly known as eggplant in many parts of the world while in some countries, it is called aubergine.

Known botanically as Solanum melongena, the fruit in modern times is now quite different in terms of size, especially with respect to length and girth.  It is common nowadays to see long fruits measuring 30cm or more in length, and the round ones of a size that are as big as tennis balls or even bigger.  


Long type of brinjal.


It has now become very fruitful indeed to cultivate brinjals because of the high yield, simplicity in cultivation, the appetising nature as a dish.

The brinjal is actually such a joy and full of fun to grow on the ground or in some form of containers such as clay pots, brick or zinc planter boxes, and large metal biscuit tins, among others.  

The plant is neither tall nor broad, as most varieties grow to a height of about 1m, 1.5m or slightly more with a spread of about a metre.  


Round type of brinjal.

But it is amazing to see the plant overladen with fruits of all shapes, sizes and colours, so much so that staking of the plant becomes necessary. This prevents the central stem from toppling over and damaging the fruits or breaking the branches.

It is, therefore, not surprising to know that the brinjal is among a group of commonly cultivated garden or potted plants that one can find in almost every home as long as there is some gardening activity there.

Apart from the usual elongated, thick and cylindrical form of brinjal, there are also others that are round, oval or egg-shaped. As for colour, there are the usual deep and glossy purple which is the one most commonly seen.  

Besides that, the other colours often seen are greenish purple, medium purple, greenish white, creamy yellow and white, but Black Beauty definitely stands out as the darkest of them all, with its fruit shape being roundish and skin colour of a very dark purple as to be close to black.

As a fruit vegetable, it is always a joy for chefs and other kitchen experts to come up with all sorts of ways to prepare, and even more ways to serve the fruit.  It can be steamed, blanched, boiled, fried, grilled, oven-roasted, charcoal roasted, sun-dried or even pickled in some concoction so that it can be stored for a longer period of time or for consumption at a later date.

The chefs can tell you how but suffice it to imagine the delectable and mouth-watering gravy, sambal, belacan and chilli padi on the table right in front of your eyes.  

Throw in the brinjal slices together with some sotong, fried ikan bilis and pounded dry prawns, my, it’s going to stir everyone’s salivary glands into a frenzy of activity in no time.


Two brinjal plants grown on the ground.  In the background is a heap of compost and several old bayam plants waiting to shed their seeds.


Start Planting Your Own Brinjals

If your garden soil is the usual lousy sticky stuff made up of a yellowish clay-like material, do not despair. Just choose a site in which rain water is not likely to stagnate.  

On a fine dry day, break up the clods of earth to a depth of up to 30cm with a rake or pick.  

Then heap over it a few bagfuls of good topsoil and peat or old decomposed sawdust. If there is a padi miller nearby, the old padi husks ejected from the factory is perfect to be mixed into the soil as a compost.  

Use bricks or timber or metal slats to enclose within a bed of soil measuring 1.2m wide by 2.4m long and up to a height of about 15cm.  

This will allow for the retention of sufficient planting medium and at the same time prevent the soil from being easily washed away when the rain comes. A planting bed of this size should be able to allow for the establishment of six to eight brinjal plants, which should be sufficient for an average family.

After this, measure and mark out eight points comprising two rows of four points each along the soil bed.  The distance between the two rows and the points within each row should be about 60cm.  

This will leave a border of 30cm all round the edge of the bed which should be sufficient root space for the brinjal plants to grow in.

Fertilise the soil with half a sack of organic manure about two to three weeks before planting.  Mix this well into the soil together with two large handfuls of a complete granulated fertiliser.


Beautiful brinjal flowers in full bloom.

Seedling Establishment

Seeds take about one to two weeks to fully germinate, but most of them should emerge in less than 10 days.  

It is, therefore, advantageous to sow in a germination bed before transplanting into polybags or pre-plant pots. Seeds that don’t show up after this period are most likely goners.

Preparation of seedlings in a germination bed usually allows for better selection choices in that only the best seedlings are taken out to be planted into pre-plant pots or bags.  

These are then taken care of and nurtured until they have attained a height of about 18-20 cm by which time they should be sturdy and tall enough to be planted out onto the soil bed that you have prepared earlier on.


A young brinjal plant in a pot.


The Planting Job

When the seedlings are ready to be planted out, it is time to look at the planting bed. At each planting point as marked out earlier, dig a small hole the size of which should be slightly larger than the rootball of the seedling.  

Remove the bag by tearing or cutting at its side and then carefully lower its content into the hole to such a depth that the rootball is slightly lower than the level of the soil surface.  

If the seedling is planned to be planted into containers, the procedure is the same, that is, fill up the container with suitable soil and then prepare a hole and place the rootball in.  

Once the setting in is done, the hole should be filled up with soil to cover entirely the whole rootball after which the area around the base of the plant is firmed by using your fingers and palms of both your hands.

As soon as the planting is done, the plant should be given a thorough but gentle watering.  A week or two later, a little compound fertiliser may be scattered around the base of each seedling while a little solution of urea may be applied to boost the growth of the plant.


An old brinjal fruit of the round type where the seeds within have started to germinate from inside. The seedlings can be transplanted and reused.


Harvesting of Fruits

Depending on the variety, most brinjal plants should be ready to harvest from within 60 days after sowing.  Many varieties are able to yield table-ready fruits in 10 weeks from seed.  

Depending on conditions of growth, others may take yet longer to be ready for harvest.  

Many seed-producing companies have seeds for sale that include quite a length of useful information on the packaging to inform purchasers about the qualities of the plants that emerge from such seeds.

Fruits of the brinjal are usually harvested just before full maturity as this is the time when they are most tender and of the best eating quality.  

At this time, they are usually firm and have a smooth glossy sheen on the surface.  The fruit skin should also be of a deep, rich colour, be it purple, green, white, cream or yellow, and it should have no wrinkles on the surface.  

When the shine turns dull and the surface is beset with lines and creases, the fruit is announcing that it is growing old and becoming too fibrous for consumption.

Normally brinjals are very strongly attached to the plant by means of a thick and tough fruit stalk. It is difficult to snap off by hand but it is a breeze when harvesting is carried out by using a pair of secateurs.  

The cut is usually made at a point that leaves about 2-5cm of stalk on the fruit. 


Care of Brinjals

In home cultivation, the problem around the vegetable plot is usually a non issue.  In fact there should not be a headache at all if something is done every day.  

The task is made easier if it is a container gardening where only polybags and pots of all kinds, shapes and sizes are used.

To reduce competition for nutrients among plants, especially between weeds and the brinjal plant, it is best to regularly remove the former by the use of a hand fork or digger.  

At the same time, rotten or damaged fruits, dead leaves and other garden debris are also discarded to give the vegetable plot a neater appearance as well as reducing the loss of nutrients to weeds.

Brinjal plants should be watered daily except when it rains.  The moisture stress faced by broadleaves such as brinjals is quite striking and highly visible as the leaves can easily wilt and droop whenever there is a gross water deficiency.

 However, leaf drop will not occur unless the plant is parched for many days.

Fertilisation and manuring should be carried out once every two to four weeks.  A liquid fertiliser made up of a manure soaked in water for a week or two is best for the purpose where it is applied on the ground around the stem of the plant.  

This should be supplemented with a compound fertiliser that is high in potash since this element is necessary in larger amounts for fruiting.

There are a number of pests and diseases that attack brinjal plants but with households normally having fewer plants around, that means fewer problems.  However, that does not mean that there are no pesky little critters to disturb the physical health of your plants.  

By keeping the surroundings phytosanitarily clean, a lot of problems may be avoided.  Similarly soils should be kept a little to the dry side to reduce the occurrence of rots and collapse of plant.  

Fortunately, many newer varieties are resistant to a number of fungal problems thus reducing the severity of wilts and rots.  

Unfortunately, brinjal plants are often physically ravaged by a number of chewers and suckers such as caterpillars, aphids, red spider mites, beetles and mealy bugs.  

If the infestation is mild, just rub them off especially during the early stages of such attacks.  As far as possible, try to avoid using pesticides.


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