Harvest eggplant when the skin is dark and glossy.
image by Alex Fiore/sxc.hu
Harvesting eggplant is a precise but uncomplicated science. Eggplants need to be harvested when they are still fairly young. If left on the plant too long, the ripe eggplant's flesh becomes bitter, brown and inedible. However, it is difficult to accidentally allow the plant to get to this point. It should be obvious when an eggplant is ready to harvest as long as you know the signs.
Monitor the eggplant's growth from the time it appears on the plant. The pace of the fruit's growth is dependent on the weather. For best results, eggplants require a long, warm growing season.
Begin checking the eggplant for ripeness when it is 6 to 8 inches long and has a glossy, dark sheen. Cup the bottom of the eggplant with your hand and squeeze it gently. If the eggplant's flesh has no give, it is still too young to harvest. If your fingers leave permanent indentations in the skin, the eggplant is overripe and should be picked and discarded. If the eggplant's flesh has some give but bounces back when you release the pressure, it is ready to harvest.
Put on a pair of gardening gloves and grasp the ripe eggplant by its calyx. The calyx, which is the cap that connects the eggplant to the stem, often has small thorns, which is why the gardening gloves are necessary.
Cut through the tough, woody stem just above the calyx with a gardening knife or a pair of pruning shears. Never drop the fruit or attempt to rip an eggplant from its stem, as you will most likely bruise the delicate flesh.
Store the eggplant for up to two days by wrapping it in plastic and placing it in the refrigerator. Eggplants generally do not last long once they have been harvested, so plan to use it as soon as possible.