Saturday, 2 October 2010

Ping Tung & Little Fingers Eggplants

Ping Tung and Little Fingers Eggplants
We grew 2 kinds of eggplant this summer; Ping Tung (lighter) on the left and Little Fingers (darker) on the right.

Little Fingers is one we will probably not grow again. They are described as maturing in 68 days from transplanting, and producing abundant mild to sweet eggplants that can be harvested very small. The plants themselves grow between 2 to 3 feet tall. They are also described as hardy, vigorous and disease resistant; yes, I suppose they were.

However, in spite of our having had a good hot summer, they did not produce that many eggplants and the ones they did produce we found to be quite bitter. Possibly we did not water them sufficiently during the drought that went with the heat, but still we just didn't love them.

The Ping Tung, on the other hand, produced at least twice as many eggplants, larger, a bit sooner and very nicely flavoured and textured, in the exact same conditions. The skins are thin and tender, and they are completely free of bitterness. They are supposed to take 65 to 75 days from transplant. The plants were a bit shorter, topping out around the 2 foot mark. The one criticism I might make is that the eggplants are long enough (up to a foot!) that some of them ended up dragging on the ground. Putting a plastic lid from a food container under them will keep them clean and reasonably bug-free. (Although we really didn't have any problems with bugs even when they dragged on the ground.)

Ping Tung originated in Taiwan. Many of the people selling seeds describe it as a hybrid, but a large number of heritage seed sellers list it as an open-pollinated heirloom. Are there 2 versions? Perhaps, but I suspect there's also just confusion. I'm pretty sure it's open-pollinated. It's certainly a common and well-liked variety; with very good reason I would say. We will be growing this one again.

In the case of both eggplants, I noted that they both performed best when temperatures were between 20°C and 30°C. They did not really produce any eggplants when the temperatures were over 30°C although the ones already in existance continued to develop okay. On the other hand, now that it is consistently under 20°C the plants seem to still be producing flowers, but development of existing eggplants has pretty much come to a halt. I suspect that this is typical of most eggplants.

Eggplants can be martyrs to flea beetles, and the only thing the Colorado potato beetle loves more then potatoes is eggplant. It's probably a good idea to put row covers over your eggplants early in the season while they are young and vulnerable. It will also help keep them warm, and since they are quite intolerant of cold temperatures that's a good thing.

Actually, if you grow potatoes, it's a good idea to have an eggplant growing next to them even if you don't like eggplant. If there are Colorado potato beetles in the vicinity, they will head to the eggplant first, giving you an opportunity to nab them before they get into the potatoes. You'll have to monitor it frequently, of course. That happened (by accident) for us this year. We got beetles on the eggplants, but we caught them right away and were able to destroy them all before they got to the potatoes, or even damaged the eggplants all that much. Once you have potato beetles established in your garden though, they are a major, major headache.

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