The Black Beauty eggplant is an old heirloom variety which is still highly sought after in home gardens. These eggplants are very meaty, weighing well over a pound, and do well in both northern and southern climates. Keep reading below to learn more about this incredible variety, how to grow it, and where to find seeds.
Profile: Black Beauty Eggplant
The classic garden eggplant, a century-old heirloom with heavy yields of large, meaty eggplants
Days to Maturity: 75 to 90 days
Fruit Description: Large bulb shape with slight ribbing, dark purple, 1 to 3 lbs
Plant Height: Up to 30 inches tall
Open Pollinated? Yes
Get seeds: Gurneys (US), Burpee (US), UF Seeds (US), High Mowing Organic Seeds (US), Sandia Seed Company (US), Swallowtail Garden Seeds (US), True Leaf Market (US), Park Seed (US), Totally Tomato (US), McKenzie Seeds (Canada), West Coast Seeds (Canada), OSC Seeds (Canada), Simply Seed (UK)
For international readers: Some of these vendors will ship overseas.
Black Beauty is the quintessential eggplant with a long history: it’s large, dark purple, meaty, flavorful, and over 100 years old. This standard variety was introduced back in 1902 by Burpee, and has since been grown in gardens the world over. Black Beauty is prized for its large size, delicate creamy flavor, and surprisingly early maturity for such a large eggplant, sometimes maturing as little as 75 days after transplanting.
Black Beauty eggplants are also prolific, producing at least 6 large eggplants per plant, with the potential to reach up to 12 in a single season. Since the plants themselves stay under 3 feet tall, they are suitable for container growing, with a 5-gallon container being the minimum recommended size to ensure a good harvest with large-sized eggplants.
Because this is a large, meaty variety, Black Beauties are ideal for both grilling and stuffing. Or chop it up and use it for other eggplant dishes.
Note: There is a popular dark green zucchini variety also called Black Beauty, which shares no relation to this eggplant.
How to Grow Black Beauty Eggplants from Seed
Sow Black Beauty eggplant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep, about 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting outside (or 4 to 8 weeks before your average last frost date). Keep seedlings under lights or a sunny south-facing window. Transplant after the last frost, and when nighttime temperatures stay above 50°F (10°C). Transplant in rich, well-draining soil or potting mix.
Black Beauty eggplants are a warm weather crop, so you want to treat them like their tomato and pepper cousins. It’s recommended to sow the seeds about 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting which, depending on your climate, can be anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks before your average last frost date. This will give you a head start on the growing season while still keeping your eggplants small enough to not get root bound in their pots.
Sow Black Beauty eggplant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. You can sow them in a seed-starting tray or a 3-inch pot (if you’re starting seeds earlier, you eventually want to grow your eggplant seedlings in 3-inch pots before transplanting). Eggplant seeds will germinate well at room temperature, but will germinate faster at 75-86°F (24-30°C). Sprouts should emerge in 1 to 2 weeks.
Pro-Tip: You can also germinate eggplant seeds in a paper towel, similar to pepper and tomato seeds. The moment you see a tiny primary root emerging, carefully and gently transplant the seed into a pot with moist seed-starting mix with tweezers.
Eggplant seedlings do not need any fertilizer until you see the first few true leaves (the leaves that come after the two initial seed leaves). After the true leaves appear, you can apply a gentle feeding of diluted liquid fertilizer (at least 1/4 strength or less). If your potting mix already has some nutrients, you don’t need to fertilize until after transplanting.
Transplant Black Beauty eggplants once nighttime temperatures stay above 50°F (10°C). Long periods of very low temperatures can stunt their growth or negatively impact yields.
You can mix some slow-release vegetable or tomato fertilizer into the soil before transplanting. After transplanting, water in your transplants well to reduce transplant shock.
Eggplants can tolerate being planted deeper than the top of the root ball, but do not get the same benefits as planting tomatoes deep.
If planting a row of Black Beauty eggplants, space them about 18 to 24 inches apart.
Taking Care of Black Beauty Eggplants
Black Beauty eggplants require well-draining, rich soil to support healthy foliage and large fruit sets. A well-balanced fertilizer or one with more phosphorus and potassium is recommended, either as a continuous-release feeding applied every 1 to 3 months or a liquid fertilizer applied every 1 to 2 weeks. Eggplants do not tolerate soggy soil, but should not be left to completely dry out; water regularly.
Eggplants are fairly resilient vegetables in the garden, but like peppers and tomatoes, do require some care to get good yields (especially for large-fruited varieties like Black Beauty). Black Beauties are heavy feeders which require rich soil and benefit from additional fertilization.
You likely won’t find eggplant fertilizers, but you can use tomato and vegetable fertilizers. Eggplants have similar nutrient requirements as tomatoes and peppers. An NPK ratio with more phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) will support more flowering and fruiting. If you use a high-nitrogen (N) fertilizer, you may get lush, green, healthy plants but with fewer actual eggplants. A slow-release fertilizer like Jobe’s tomato spikes or Dr. Earth organic vegetable fertilizer can be applied every 2 months or so, and most liquid fertilizers can be applied every 1 to 2 weeks during the growing season, but follow the directions of whatever fertilizer you use.
Keep the soil around your eggplants evenly moist, without . For full-grown eggplants, you can water when the top inch or two of soil is dry. Avoid letting your eggplants completely dry out or wilt, as this will not only reduce fruit size, it can also lead to blossom end rot.
Pro-Tip: If you grow Black Beauty eggplants in containers, they will require more frequent watering than in-ground eggplants.
When and How to Pick Black Beauty Eggplants
You can expect to harvest your first Black Beauty eggplants between 75 and 90 days after transplanting. They should be at their full size (at least 5 inches long) and with glossy purple skin. Harvest before the skin starts turning yellow-brown to avoid bitter, tough eggplants.
Black Beauty eggplants can be harvested before they reach their full size, as eggplants are actually eaten when underripe. Ripe eggplants are yellow-brown in color. However, if they start turning yellow or brown, they become much more bitter and tough to eat. So, harvest before your Black Beauty eggplants start turning brown or yellow-brown, and if they are starting to change color, pick them right away.
Because of their tough stems, eggplants should be harvested with sharp garden scissors.
Pro-Tip: If you want to save your Black Beauty eggplant seeds to replant next year, you will need to “sacrifice” one of your eggplants and let it get completely overripe on the plant (it will be fully yellow-brown). While the fruit will be virtually inedible, the seeds will be mature and one eggplant often has enough seeds to last several years of replanting.
Storing Black Beauty Eggplants
Eggplants have a short shelf life. After harvesting Black Beauty eggplants, store them in the refrigerator if you don’t intend to use them within 1 to 2 days.
Alternatively, you can store them in a cool room or cellar (around 50°F/10°C is ideal). In addition, keep them away from fruits and fruiting vegetables like bananas and tomatoes, which release ethylene gas and can lead to your eggplants overripening.