My eggplant had been doing great, with a gorgeous fully opened flower, and then suddenly when I checked on it on Sunday, the flower was on the ground. Sara commented, saying that she found my blog when looking for answers as to why her eggplant had dropped its flower, which spurred me to do some more research.
Oddly some sites said that eggplants required both male and female flowers, and if a fruit wasn’t fertilized, it would drop…yet other sites said that eggplants were self-pollenators. It was confusing to me, but I found a site that not only has some extremely interesting information on the history of the eggplant, it has a very simple and logical reason for why my eggplant dropped its flower:
When temperatures rise above 95°F, eggplant ceases to set fruit and may drop flowers or abort immature fruit.
Well, there you go. It got up to 95 and beyond on Saturday, during our first heat wave of the season, and Sunday morning the flower had dropped. Now I just have to hope that the next heat wave waits until August! Somehow I have a feeling that my poor eggplant isn’t going to do too well, though it already has a couple flowers in various stages of development. What is somewhat confusing to me is that the information also says that eggplants do well in the desert Southwest. As in, Arizona. (The site I linked in is actually for the U. of Arizona, which is in Tucson. And which I know, from personal experience, has many days over 95 in the summer. Yet the eggplant needs 5 months of soil warmth to produce fruit! Some additional information:
Eggplants prefer consistent soil moisture, but once established can tolerate dry spells. Although the majority of water- and nutrient-absorbing roots are found in the top 18 inches of soil, roots can reach a depth of 4 feet. To avoid flower and fruit drop, water deeply and regularly, especially during long, dry periods.
To conserve soil moisture, try planting in waffle beds or applying a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the base of each plant. To minimize sun scald during the hot, intense days of summer, provide a bit of midday sun protection. Depending on your garden’s location and layout, shade can be provided by tall, nearby plants or by shade cloth. Eggplant can be grown successfully in containers. Choose smaller plant varieties and large containers with good drainage. Be prepared to water more often, since the soil tends to dry out more quickly.
The history made me chuckle a bit:
In China, as part of her “bride price,” a woman must have at least 12 eggplant recipes prior to her wedding day. In Turkey, “imam bayeldi,” a tasty treat of stuffed eggplant simmered in olive oil is said to have made a religious leader swoon in ecstasy. When first introduced in Italy, people believed that anyone who ate the “mad apple” was sure to go insane.
I guess it explains why eggplant recipes are so common in Chinese cuisine, and much less so in Italian! I’d love to know how the idea that eggplants made people insane came about in Italy though.