Eggplants come in many varieties: large, small, long, fat, round, purple, white, red, yellow, orange. Start looking into the variety of eggplant and have fun with cooking with them.
Before I discovered the heirloom asian varieties of eggplant, this nightshade didn’t exactly blow my skirt up. I didn’t detest it or anything. I just found the flavor kind of limited. When I discovered the little guys, particularly the antigua striped eggplant, and I started oven roasting them, I could barely keep my hands off of them long enough to use them in a recipe. If you have issues with the more familiar, mucilaginous and pulpy eggplant, you should try out the little guys. They truly are delicious.
A major point I am trying to get across to people new to growing in Arizona is that when you become accustomed to the climate, you will find yourself luckier than people in most other climates. We can grow almost anything here. Eggplant is a case in point: gardeners in northern climates have issues with eggplant because they lack the warmth and light needed by this tomato relative. Eggplants love our climate.
Start plants indoors in late January, early February in Tucson in the brightest window you have, under a grow light, or in a cold frame or greenhouse. Seedlings will sometimes be lanky indoors. Brush your hands over plants to encourage toughness, and harden off before you put outside (hold water back a little). Plant out when you are no longer worried about the frost, or devise a way to protect plants if a frost is to occur.
Eggplant loves enriched garden soil in the full sun, but is not terribly picky. However the seedlings detest root disturbance. Never sow plants in flats and be very careful with the root ball when you plant them. Mulch plants well as they get bigger and stake them so they can handle an abundance of fruit. Space out according to each variety, usually about 18 inches apart. Feed occasionally with kelp, fish emulsion and/or compost tea.
I love this guy. Eggplant chutney: