Growing Brinjals (Eggplant) in Singapore Homes
Known to many by its fanciful names namely Brinjal, Eggplant, Aubergine, it is a well-loved vegetable cooked in various cuisines around the world.
Brinjals grow in a range of sizes, shapes, and colors – the chinese brinjals being long, skinny, tender fleshed and coated in a shiny shade of dark purple; the indian brinjals on the other hand are short and round, firm fleshed, and coated in a lighter shade of purple and sometimes just purely green; and the italian brinjals a compromise between the former 2 types: fat and round in size with a dark shade of purple.
Not only do the Chinese, Indians, Italians love this vegetable, it is also an all-time favourite for the Koreans (steamed and tossed in sweet, savoury, and nutty sesame oil dressing), Japanese (miso honey-glazed, then grilled aburi style), and the Thais (diced up and cooked in a pot of green curry).
Native to hot climates, the brinjal is a plant that grows well in the heat, so it is perfect for growing them locally in Singapore! These purple darlings take approximately 40-90 days to flower from seed stage, and perhaps another 10 days to fruit.
How to grow from seed?
You can easily get Brinjal seeds online, or at a local gardening shop. Most local shops would carry seeds of the long chinese variety.
As always, it is recommended to have the seeds germinated in a seedling tray before having successful germinations transplanted into larger pots or directly into a planting plot.
*Optional step: Soak seeds overnight (or at least 4 hours) to encourage germination.
Using a seedling tray (a ready made one, or even using a recycled egg tray), fill the seedling tray with fresh soil mix. Do remember to create holes at the base of each cell for proper water drainage. You can do so by using a pair of kitchen scissors to snip off a small corner of the base of the egg tray – do so for each cell in the tray.
Afterwhich, fill each cell with fresh soil mix, and moisten the soil with a generous amount of water. Then, make a hole (about 1 cm deep) in the soil of each cell to place 1 to 2 seeds into it. Thereafter, you can either sprinkle a thin layer of soil mix over to cover the inserted seeds, or simply “bury” inserted seeds into the soil by lightly patting soil over exposed seeds. Continue to water the mix until it is substantially moist.
After sowing the seeds, expose the tray to at least 4 hrs of direct sunlight daily and remember to protect them from rain. As fresh seeds are light in weight, raindrops falling on these freshly sowed seeds can easily misplace the seed out of its soil cell. Hence, find a strategic position within your home where this tray can sit safely.
Throughout germination, do keep the soil mix moist at all times. Germination should take approximately 3 to 5 days.
As the saying goes, “survival of the fittest” – after 3 to 5 days of germination, remove the weaker seedlings and you may use the remnant soil from the weaker seedlings to top up soil for the stronger seedlings which may now require a little more structural support as they sprout their first stem and few leaves. When these stronger seedlings produce 2 or 3 pairs of leaves, gently transplant each one into a 30 cm pot or directly into a planting plot, spaced 30 to 45 cm apart.
At about 40–90 days after sowing, these brinjal plants should begin to flower. With a paintbrush or an old toothbrush, pollinate the plant by gently transferring pollen between the flowers. In doing so, you are allowing the pollen powder to be exchanged between flowers, allowing the flower to then bear fruit/brinjal!
How to grow from cuttings?
Did you know, dawn (early morning) is actually the best time to take a cutting? That is because the plant tissues contain the most moisture early in the morning.
Using a clean and sharp scissors or blade, cut a substantial stem cutting from the parent plant – at least 6 inches long branch ideally including a node which is the intersection of a branch off the major stem. Afterwhich, soak the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the stem cutting in fresh water for a couple of days to allow roots to form.
After a couple of days, pot the rooted stem cuttings into soil 2 to 3 inches deep. Water generously to set the soil and cutting in place. *Additional step for moisture retention: You may take an old clear plastic cup which is fairly tall, and invert it over the newly planted stem cutting. Ensure that the cup does not touch the plant, but instead forms a mini greenhouse around the plant helping to retain moisture as well as to prevent garden flies or insects from attacking the new plant.
Soil types for optimal growth:
Brinjal plants grow best in a well-drained, slightly acidic, sandy loam or loam soil, fairly high in organic matter.
5.8 – 6.5
Eggplants once germinated, are sun lovers. They thrive in our local heat and moisture, so do make sure your brinjal plants get at least 6 hours of unobstructed sun per day—the more sun the better!
While germinating, keep soil moist – not over soaking in water such that seeds over soak, soften and rot (die).
After seeds have germinated, do note that brinjal plants do not like standing water, so they should be watered deeply and infrequently. This means that the water should drain well through the soil, reaching the soil in the base of the pot, not hovering at the surface of the soil nor soaking the roots; watering 3 to 4 times a week should be sufficient, unless the weather is unusually hot.
By the window where plenty of sunlight is available would be a good spot to position your plant.
If not, any other positions that receive good amounts of sunlight (especially morning sunlight) can work too – HDB corridors, balcony, verandas, etc.