The ancestry of heirloom eggplant can be traced back 2,000 years, with its appearance as part of Indian cuisines, according to Lynn Coulter in the book, "Gardening with Heirloom Seeds." As eggplants made their way to the Mediterranean, the New World and Asia, they took numerous forms, many nothing like the tough-skinned, shiny purple eggplants we know in supermarkets today. You can grow any type of heirloom eggplant in a container. Texas A&M recommends planting one plant per every 5 gallons of volume.
The large black fruit, a black pear shape dating 1902 when it was introduced by Burpee Seeds, matures in 90 days. Black Beauty provides four to six fruits of excellent quality, according to Heirloom Seeds of Pennsylvania and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It's the most commonly grown heirloom. Coulter recommends picking the fruits when they're small, about 74 days after sowing. Black Beauty does well even in northern climates during warm summers. As an alternative, grow Florida Market, especially suited for southern climates and maturing in 85 days. Both varieties are especially well suited for containers, according to Texas A&M.
This pale green eggplant was developed in 1964 by Professor Elwyn Meader at the University of New Hampshire Experiment Station and matures early, making it suitable for northern gardens. Coulter describes Applegreen as dependable and productive, with tender skins that don't need peeling. Heirloom Seeds lists it as maturing in 62 to 70 days, extra early, and coping well with adverse conditions.
Teardrop-shaped fruits feature white skins with streaks of purple or rose lavender. Rosa Bianca hails from Italy and is favored by chefs for its creamy texture. Heirloom Seeds praises its sweet, mild flavor, lacking bitterness. This eggplant matures in 80 days.
Thai Long Green
This Southeast Asian eggplant features elongated, 12-inch-long lime green fruits, with mild and tender, edible flesh. As with Rosa Bianca, Thai Long Green wins favor with gourmet chefs, according to Baker Creek. As an alternative, grow Thai Light Round Green, a lighter color with stripes and round as its name connotes, or Thai Long Purple, which thrives in a humid climate.