Tips & Techniques for Growing Eggplant
Growing Egg Plant
Varieties of Eggplant
Eggplant is a warm weather plant and a member of the nightshade family which includes tomatoes, potatoes, tobaccos and capsicum peppers. The most typical egg plant, e.g. the heirloom variety Black Beauty, produces large fruits which are deep purple, almost black in color.  However, there exist varieties that are light purple and even white.  The shape of egg plant fruits vary from short and fat to long and skinny.  They are generally mild with some almost void of taste.
Preparing the Soil
Eggplants need a long and warm growing season.  Therefore, the best way to plant them is by transplanting plants that were started about two months before the last frost.  Prepare the soil by tilling and marking off rows.  A simple and easy way to mark off rows is by using a string with a stick tied to it at both ends.  Stretch the string from one end of the garden to the other and make a straight shallow trench beneath it to guide you in planting later. Eggplants can be located any where in the garden since they are compatible with almost everything. However, they should not be placed where larger plants will shade them. 
Planting Eggplants
Due to the tiny size of the seed and the requirement for a long growing season, setting out plants works better than planting seed directly in the garden.  You can buy plants locally or grow your own.  If you choose to grow them, you will need to start the plants about two months before planting time.  You can purchase seed from seed companies or save your own from the previous year's crop. Buying seeds gives you more of a selection but buying plants is less trouble.  Wait until there is no chance of frost before transplanting them into the garden.  Setting them out while the nights are still cold can stunt their growth.  Plants should be spaced about one foot apart to allow the plants to branch out and get adequate sun.
Weeding & Plant Maintenance
Eggplants require little care and maintenance.  Plant maintenance is limited primarily to tilling and hoeing to control weeds.  Most of the weeds in an eggplant row can be removed by hoeing and the middles can be tilled.  You will need to weed about three or four times before the plants get large and start producing.  Eggplants should require no additional care, unless you encounter problems with pests.
Controlling Diseases and Insects
Based on my experience, eggplants can be a little difficult to get going once transplanted.  The problem is cool weather and damage from flea beetles.  Small holes start appearing in the leaves of a plant and increase until the entire plant is riddled with little holes.  The larvae can even attack the roots. Flea Beetles are tiny and can jump off the plant when disturbed much like fleas.  Therefore, it is hard to pick them off.  If there aren't too many beetles eating your plants, you may get away with doing nothing.  Once the plants get to growing well they can tolerate some damage.  When the infestation is bad, some people resort to using a pesticide.  There are some organic pesticides that are effective.  If you find that an insecticide is needed, make sure you pick one for the specific problem and that can be used on garden vegetables.  Always read and follow the directions on the containers when applying chemicals on garden plants.  For specific details on controlling diseases and pests, click on the "Gardening Resources" tab and go to the Sources of Information on Vegetable Garden Diseases and Pests.
Eggplant fruits should be picked when they reach the desirable size and are still young and tender.  The plant may have small thorns, so use care in handling the plants.  Cut the fruits off with a knife.  Over mature fruits have a spongy texture and contain mature seeds making them not very good to eat.  Eggplant is best eaten fresh.  There are several ways of cooking them.  I prefer frying them in a batter made from corn meal mix, egg, milk, pepper and salt. They can also add variety to a stir fry.