2015 Eggplant Variety Trials

In the hot summer of 2012 we had trouble with our lovely tried and tested favorite eggplant (aubergine) variety, Nadia, setting fruit. That was disappointing, because we had tried lots of different eggplant varieties before settling on Nadia. The large purple-black teardrop or oval eggplant are what is popular here. Not the long thin ones, or the pale lavender ones, or the stripey ones. Nor the smaller open-pollinated ones. We found Nadia and loved it. Then we discovered its Achilles heel – it’s not good in hot summers.

Nadia eggplant. Photo by Nina Gentle
Nadia eggplant.
Photo by Nina Gentle

For three years we have trialed some eggplant varieties that we hope will give better yields in hot weather. We chose ones that claimed heat tolerance and were in our “large purple-black teardrop or oval” category. But ironically, we haven’t had hot summers since! I’ve got pretty good data on how the various varieties performed in OK summers.

Epic Eggplant Photo by Nina Gentle
Epic Eggplant
Photo by Nina Gentle

In 2013 we compared Nadia, Epic, Traviata and the open-pollinated Florida Highbush. We counted the harvested fruit but didn’t weigh them. Traviata gave 7.3 fruits/plant, Florida Highbush 6.3, Nadia 6.1 and Epic only 4.4. We noted that we’d planted the Epic at the dry stony end of the bed, in case that affected yields. As we found out the next year, it certainly did! We also had an impression that Florida Highbush had smaller fruit, but we weren’t sure.

Traviata eggplant Photo by Nina Gentle
Traviata eggplant
Photo by Nina Gentle

In 2014 we grew the same four varieties and this time we recorded the weight of each harvest as well as the number of fruit of each kind. This time we got better results overall: Nadia gave 13.4 fruits/plant, Epic 12.5, Traviata 11.7 and the Florida Highbush limped home at 6.8 fruits/plant. We failed to note which variety was at the dry stony end that year! We did find out that the size and weight of each fruit was very similar across the varieties, varying only from Epic’s 0.61 lbs to Traviata’s 0.64 lbs per fruit average.

Florida Market OP eggplant Photo by Nina Gentle
Florida Market OP eggplant
Photo by Nina Gentle

This year we tried the same four varieties and added another reputedly heat-tolerant open-pollinated kind, Florida Market. It’s fruits were smaller and rounder. The variety had a lower yield. It was at the dry stony end (so unfair!) Epic did best, both in number of fruit/plant (10.7) and weight per fruit (0.77 lbs). Good thing we didn’t give up on it after 2013! Traviata provided 8.9 fruits/plant, Florida Highbush 8.2, Nadia only 8.0 (we did get a lot of culls too), and the Florida Market just 7.5.

Florida Highbush OP eggplant Photo by Nina Gentle
Florida Highbush OP eggplant
Photo by Nina Gentle

Overall, it was a less bountiful year compared to 2014, at 812 fruits, 564 lbs – an average of 0.7 lbs each. A lot of eggplant! In 2014 we got more: 927 fruit, 582 lbs – an average of 0.63 lbs each.

What to do next year? Maybe just trial the three hybrids and not the Florida OPs. It would make life easier. Here’s our spreadsheet. I haven’t yet found a tidy way to copy Excel spreadsheets into a blogpost, so if someone knows how, please leave me a message.

2015 Eggplant Harvest Record number and weight of each of the five varieties. If none, write 0
  Nadia   Traviata   Epic   Florida Highbush Florida Market NOTES
# of plants 49 plants 17 plants 18 plants 9 plants 10 plants Record weight in pounds
Date Number Pounds Number Pounds Number Pounds Number Pounds Number Pounds  
18-Jul 1 1.2 0 0 3 1.5 4 1.5 0 0
29-Jul 18 22 13 13.5 16 18.5 2 3.5 0 0
1-Aug 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5-Aug 6 5 3 3 10 10 1 1.5 0 0
8-Aug 31 17.5 14 9 14 10 4 1.5 2 1 Picked too small. Ave 0.4-0.7 lbs each. Goal 0.7-1.0 lbs
12-Aug 4 4 2 1 1 0.5 3 3 1 0.5
19-Aug 54 35 20 14.5 30 21.5 12 8 11 7 Picked a bit small.
26-Aug 20 12.5 10 8.5 23 21.5 5 4.5 13 9.5 Nadia many damaged
29-Aug 17 10 8 6 9 7 3 2 3 2
2-Sep 21 13 7 5 19 14.5 8 5 1 0.5 Nadia many damaged
5-Sep 22 15 10 8 10 7 4 2 5 3.5
9-Sep 18 11 1 2 8 5 2 1 6 3.5 Pl;us approx 1 lb over-ripe FL Mkt
12-Sep
16-Sep 30 20 28 16 0 0 18 11 7 4 Picked small. Epic maybe mixed with FL HB
19-Sep 21 15 0 0 18 13 0 0 5 3
23-Sep 41 28 13.5 8 13.5 8 1 0.2 10 5 Epic and Traviata confused, averaged
27-Sep
30-Sep 44 27.5 7 3 4 2 4 2.5 4 2
4-Oct
7-Oct 33 18 13 7 9 5 2 1 7 3
11-Oct 10 5 2 1 5 3 3 1
Totals 392 261.7 151.5 105.5 192.5 148 76 49.2 75 44.5 812
Per plant 8.0 5.3 8.9 6.2 10.7 8.2 8.4 5.5 7.5 4.5 564.4
Wt/fruit 0.67 0.70 0.77 0.65 0.59
Conclusions Epic did best this year, both in number of fruit/plant and weight per fruit. Last year it was second to Nadia in yield/plant, tops in weight/fruit. Florida Market had smaller fruit and a lower yield. In 2014 we didn’t grow FL Mkt; FL HB came fourth. Total yield 2015 was 812 fruits, 564 lbs. In 2014, we got 927, 582 lbs. Once again it was not a hot summer, so we didn’t find which does best in hot weather. Suggest we drop the FL OPs and just grow 3 vars next year.

 

Sweet potato harvest and eggplant varieties.

Bountiful sweet potato harvest Credit Twin Oaks Community
Bountiful sweet potato harvest
Credit Nina Gentle

Our sweet potato harvest is huge this year! We mostly managed to keep the deer out of the plot, by luck and a scarecrow and things that fluttered in the breeze. We’ve filled all our usual boxes and then scrambled twice to find more! There are about 20 plants we didn’t have time to dig up yesterday (our fourth harvest day). Hopefully we’ll get those out of the ground before the rain moves in. A big storm system is approaching from the south west. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had any very cold weather since that first light frost on 10/5. I remember one awful year when we left the sweet potatoes in the ground too late, hoping they’d fatten up a bit to make up for a poor growing season. Instead, the weather got cold and wet, and the sweet potatoes were rotting in the ground (it was November by then), and those that didn’t rot got chilling damage that prevented them ever softening in cooking. Sweet potatoes that stay hard are no fun to eat! I wrote the harvesting details in an earlier post.

Boxes of sweet potatoes curing in our basement. Credit Twin Oaks Community
Boxes of Beauregard sweet potatoes curing in our basement.
Credit Nina Gentle

Anyway, back to this year’s good news – I counted the equivalent of 273 normal-sized boxes in the basement this morning. At 23 pounds for our standard box, that’s about 6280 pounds. We might be up to 6500 pounds by the time we’re done. This will be our record! I think our local food pantry will be getting some sweet potatoes this winter and next spring!

Last year I compared sweet potato yields for different years. We usually have about 600 plants in 800 row feet (16″ spacing). Yield is about 11 pounds/sweet potato plant this year. But as they say “your results may vary.”  Ours certainly have. Working back from 2012, we harvested 4070 lbs, 2208 lbs, 1860 lbs, “lots” (poor record-keeping!), 5590 lbs, 3820 lbs and 4050 lbs in 2007.


Nadia eggplant. Photo credit Kathryn Simmons
Nadia eggplant.
Photo credit Kathryn Simmons

This year we did variety trials of four eggplant varieties, to find one better than Nadia, which is a lovely variety, but didn’t do so well in the hot summer of 2012. Last year we ran the trial and we didn’t get a hot summer. So we tried again. Again, no hot summer! But we did good record-keeping! Here’s our table for this year:

Eggplant Harvest 2

What can we conclude? All four varieties have similar-sized fruit. We deliberately chose purple-black tear-drop shaped eggplant because that’s what our cooks want. We didn’t include any green, striped, long skinny, orange, fluted or other unusual kinds. No judgment about people who like those!

Traviata eggplant from Osborne Seeds
Traviata eggplant from Osborne Seeds

The four varieties, Nadia, Epic, Traviata and Florida Highbush (the only open-pollinated eggplant we included) all have similar-sized fruit, about 0.6 lbs each. Nadia yielded best per plant, at 13.4 fruits over the season. Epic was next at 12.5 fruits, then Traviata with 11.7 fruits. Any statisticians reading this? Are these numbers significantly different?

 

Florida Highbush eggplant from Seed Savers Exchange
Florida Highbush eggplant from Seed Savers Exchange

Florida Highbush was a poor fourth with an average of only 6.8 fruits per plant. Maybe we’ll drop that one from our experiments. On the other hand, with a name like that, perhaps it would do better than the others in a really hot summer!

Nadia eggplant from Johnnys Seeds
Nadia eggplant from Johnnys Seeds

The records are also helpful in seeing the flow of the harvest. We started harvesting 7/7. Nadia wasn’t ready. They peaked 8/6. We peaked 9/27 (“Almost over”!), after doing a drastic over-harvesting 9/24. We’re farmers not scientists!

 

 

 

Epic eggplant from Osborne Seeds
Epic eggplant from Osborne Seeds

On that theme, notice that one bed had thicker rowcover than the other, when transplanted. The two beds were next to each other. One was all Nadia, the other, the three contenders. The row cover could have skewed the results. Onward and upward! Maybe next year we’ll get some results we can bank on.