Eggplant will turn to mush if canned according to traditional canning methods. Pickled eggplant can be made so the eggplant retains its crispness, with very little degradation to the fruit. You can make pickled eggplant from the standard oval variety or from the long, cylinder Japanese variety of eggplant. Either way, pickled eggplant is one way to preserve your garden's harvest.
Combine the vinegar, water and salt in a stockpot or large saucepan. Bring to a boil.
Wash seven pint canning jars. Add one garlic clove, one dill head and a bay leaf to each jar. Fill the remainder of the jar with sliced eggplant.
Ladle the pickling solution into each jar bringing the juice level to within 1/4 inch of the top.
Place a lid on each jar and secure with a canning ring.
Bring the water to a full rolling boil in a water bath canner.
Lower the filled jars into the canner using canning tongs.
Allow the canner to return to a full rolling boil and process the pickles for 15 minutes.
Remove the jars from the canner using the tongs and set them on a counter or tabletop to cool.
Choose a planting site for miniature eggplants in full sun. Add 6 inches of compost or composted manure to the soil and work it into the top 12 inches.
Plant eggplant starter plants after all danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Space the plants 18 to 24 inches apart. Place an aluminum foil collar around the stems' bottoms protecting them from cutworms. Black plastic mulch speeds early growth in cooler climates.
Water as needed, but do not overwater. Eggplants are relatively drought tolerant, but are prone to root rot.
Fertilize miniature eggplants monthly with a low-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 5-10-10. High-nitrogen fertilizers produce too much foliage and too little fruit.
Check frequently for aphids, whiteflies, potato beetles, tomato hornworm, cucumber beetle, spider mites, flea beetle and leafhoppers. Treat infestations with organic pesticides.
Check for bacterial and viral wilts. Pulling and destroying affected plants keeps the disease from spreading to other plants.
Harvesting miniature eggplant fruits when the skin is still shiny avoids tough, bitter fruit. Store the fruit at temperatures above 45 F and use as soon as possible for the best flavor.
The actual number of vegetables produced by a single plant varies depending on the type of eggplant being grown. On average, Italian eggplants produce about eight fruit per plant. Asian eggplant, which is longer and thinner than the Italian variety, grows about 15 fruit per season, according to garden columnist Jim McCausland of Sunset Magazine.
Two main problems contribute to a decline in eggplant yield: lack of water during blooming and soil temperatures below 65 degrees F, according to the Ohio State University Extension.
Researchers at the Ohio State University report the best way to increase eggplant yield is using plastic mulch during planting. Place fertilizer in the soil when planting and then cover with plastic mulch. Mulch is shown to increase yield up to 300 percent.
Pound two 6-foot wooden stakes 1 foot into the ground with a hammer. Space the wooden stakes 18 inches apart. This secures your trellis so that it does not fall over in a strong wind. You can reduce the height of your trellis by using shorter stakes.
Cut a 2-foot-by-4-foot piece of concrete fencing with heavy-duty wire cutters. Concrete wire has enough space between the wire mesh to pick your fruit if it falls through. Wear protective eyeglasses and leather gloves to avoid scratches and other injuries.
Wrap the long side of the wire rectangle around the wooden stakes. Attach the concrete wire to the stakes with heavy-duty construction staples and an electric stapler.
Bend any loose wires with a pair of pliers in toward the mesh to secure the ends so that they do not scratch anyone later. Plant your eggplant at the base of the trellis.
Tie the eggplant branches to the trellis with soft string as the eggplant grows. When the fruit starts to form, create slings out of soft cloth such as nylon or cotton T-shirts. Tie the slings on to the trellis, and lay the developing fruit in the sling.
Examine the eggplants to determine maturity. Lift the eggplant in your hand. If the eggplant feels heavy in your hand, this indicates maturity. If the eggplant looks shiny and the skin feels firm, the eggplant is ready to pick.
Hold the eggplant in one hand to ensure it does not fall to the ground while you pick it.
Clip the eggplant stem approximately 2 inches above the eggplant with the garden shears. Place the eggplant into your basket, and repeat the process to pick every ripe eggplant.
Pour a 1-inch layer of gravel into the bottom of a 5-gallon container. Fill the remainder of the container with a premium potting soil, with added fertilizers.
Dig a hole in the middle of the container's soil large enough for the roots and the base of the eggplant. Remove the eggplant from its growing container and place it in the hole. Spread out the plant's roots in the hole. Pack soil firmly around the roots and the base of the plant. Water the container until water comes out of the drainage holes.
Place a tomato cage in the soil. Push the stakes of the cage into the soil around the perimeter of the plant.
Spray the plants daily with a light stream of water until the soil appears moist. Refrain from watering on days when the soil still looks moist.
Place the container in a south-facing window where it will receive the most sunlight. Turn the plant every few days to give the plant access to sunlight on every side. If possible, grow the eggplant under a set of grow lights. Eggplants prefer full sunlight and most indoor natural light is not sufficient enough for eggplants to thrive.
Pick eggplant fruits when they are uniformly colored, glossy and firm.
Slice the skins off the eggplants, and slice them about 1/4 inch thick from top to bottom. Then slice across to get pieces the size of French fries. Put the eggplant strips in a bowl and toss with the 1/2 cup of salt.
Move the eggplant strips into a colander, arraying them in a relatively uniform layer up the sides. Put a bowl the same size as the colander inside the colander and weigh it down with three or so pounds of weight. [I find a foil covered common solid brick is a handy kitchen tool. ] Put the entire apparatus in the sink to drain for 45 minutes. This will remove any bitterness from the eggplant.
Rinse the salt off the eggplant with cold water. Drain it well, then SQUEEZE it dry. Put the eggplant in a bowl with the vinegar, and marinate it for 30 minutes. [It will return to shape like a wet sponge. ]
Drain the vinegar from the eggplant and squeeze it dry again. Put the eggplant into a bowl with all the other ingredients.
Pour the contents into a canning jar. Make SURE there is enough olive oil to completely cover all the eggplant about 1/2 inch deep. Tightly seal and refrigerate the jar. Marinate for at least a week; The ideal time is actually three months, and the eggplant will keep getting better even after that.