How to harvest and store aubergines


I studied horticultural sciences at university and in my free time you can find me in my own patch of land, growing anything with roots. I am particularly passionate about self-sufficiency and seasonal food.

Favourite fruit: quince, cornelian cherry and blueberries
Favourite vegetables: peas, tomatoes and garlic

The harvest time for aubergines begins in summer and lasts until autumn. Learn all about how to harvest aubergines, as well as how to store and preserve them properly.

Ripe aubergines on the plant
With proper care, you can look forward to a bountiful aubergine harvest [Photo: PHILIPPE MONTIGNY/]

Growing aubergines (Solanum melongena) at home is becoming increasingly popular. This heat-loving nightshade plant (Solanaceae) produces many brightly coloured fruits when it is planted in the right location and cared for well. However, it can be difficult for hobby gardeners to determine when to harvest. Read on to find out how to tell when aubergines are ripe, how to harvest them correctly and how to store them.

When to harvest aubergines?

Aubergines are slow-growing vegetables. Although you start growing them early in the year, usually in January, the harvest does not start before late summer and lasts until the first frosts. In a greenhouse, however, you can harvest your crop as early as July thanks to early-ripening aubergine varieties and warmer temperatures. Outdoors, the time for harvesting aubergines is from August to autumn. Do not pick aubergines, but rather cut them off the plant with a sharp knife or secateurs, making sure to leave the stem on the fruit. This prevents injury to the plant and the fruits can be stored for longer.

purple and white striped aubergine
Not all aubergine varieties are dark purple when ripe [Photo: J.A. Johnson/]

Aubergines, along with tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) and potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), belong to the nightshade family, which produces the poisonous alkaloid solanine. Solanine is found in unripe fruit, as well as in the leaves of the aubergine plant. As the fruit ripens, the solanine and bitter substances break down. Below is our guide on how to determine whether your aubergines are ripe and ready for harvesting.

How to check if your aubergines are ripe:

  • The skin is the typical colour for the variety
  • Gives slightly when pressed, the inside feels soft and somewhat spongy
  • Cream-coloured flesh with no green spots and no bitter taste
  • Slightly brown-green seeds

It is quite common for aubergines to become overripe quickly. This can usually be identified by the aubergine’s dull skin or a colour change from white to yellow for white aubergine varieties or from yellow to deep orange-red for the Ethiopian eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum). Still, these fruits can be harvested and eaten, or you can save the aubergine seeds to plant next year.

Tip: in Africa and Asia, bitter-tasting aubergines are a popular ingredient in many dishes like stews and curries. Even when ripe, the bitter substances remain in these varieties. A bitter aubergine from an Asian supermarket is therefore not classified as poisonous.

Ripe aubergines sliced
Ripe aubergines can be identified by their colouring and firmness [Photo: GWX/]

How to store aubergines?

Aubergines can only be stored for a short period of time, as they dry out quickly and the tissue is sensitive to pressure. The ideal storage temperature is 8 – 12 °C and the fruit will keep for a maximum of two weeks. If aubergines are accidentally harvested when unripe, let them ripen for a few days in a warm spot to break down the solanine before storing them in a cooler place.

Tip: if aubergines are stored together with apples or tomatoes, they ripen faster but also go bad faster. These fruit types produce the ripening gas ethylene, which causes aubergines to overripen quickly. It is best to store aubergines that are already overripe in a different place – but the faster ripening process can also be used to your benefit for unripe aubergines.

Storing aubergines in the fridge

Aubergines are quite sensitive to cold and need a high level of humidity. When storing aubergines in the fridge, the temperature should not go below 8°C. Wrap aubergines in cling film to reduce evaporation and keep the fruit fresher for longer. Too-cold temperatures cause dark, sunken spots and other cold damage.

frozen aubergine slices
Aubergines can be frozen raw or pre-cooked [Photo: Ahanov Michael/]

Freezing aubergines

If you have a surplus of aubergines and wish to preserve them, you can freeze them, especially if they are not yet overripe. Cooked aubergines can also be frozen.

Instructions for freezing aubergines:

  • Wash the aubergine, peel it and cut into 8 mm thick slices
  • Bring water to the boil and add a little lemon juice to prevent any browning
  • Blanch the slices in hot water for a few minutes and let them dry briefly
  • Put the aubergine slices into freezer bags or containers and place them in the freezer

This method keeps aubergines fresh for several months and they can be prepared when needed.

How to preserve aubergines?

Another idea for preserving your excess aubergines is to make them into delicious spreads, antipasti or pesto.

Pickled aubergine

Pickling is a popular method of preserving aubergines and it also makes delicious antipasti. Along with your aubergine, you will need water, vinegar, garlic, salt, olive oil, spices and a sterilised canning jar. For this recipe, cut the aubergine into slices a few centimetres thick and cook them for a few minutes in 500 ml water and 100 ml vinegar. Then remove them from the pickling water and pat dry. Layer the aubergine slices in the jar, season to taste with garlic, spices and salt and cover with olive oil. Stored in a cool and dark place, the pickled aubergine will keep for several weeks.

Pickled aubergines in a jar
Aubergines pickled in olive oil with chilli and garlic are a delight for anyone’s taste buds [Photo: istetiana/]

Canning aubergines

Canning is used to preserve vegetables for a very long time. The vegetables are boiled with various ingredients and then preserved in a canning jar. However, this method is not ideal for aubergines because the aromatic fruits quickly become soft and mushy. It is better to preserve aubergines in oil to allow their aroma to develop fully.

Starting your aubergine plants early and planting them out in a timely manner will ensure a rich harvest. Find out what to look out for in our article on planting aubergines.

Tip: aubergines are heavy feeders, so they need to be fertilised regularly to produce a rich harvest. It is best to feed your aubergines when planting them out with a primarily organic fertiliser, such as our Plantura Tomato Food. Thanks to its long-term effect, a second fertilisation is not required for roughly three months.

Tomato Food, 1.5kg
Tomato Food, 1.5kg
star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder star-placeholder
star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating star-rating
  • Perfect for tomatoes, chillies, courgettes, cucumber & more
  • For healthy plants & an abundant tomato harvest
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Cutting and preparing aubergines

Aubergines can be used in a variety of meals, and how to chop them depends on their intended use. Aubergines are typically sliced for frying, deep-frying, and baking. Eggplant curry or stew recipes typically call for the aubergine to be chopped into bite-sized pieces.

cooking aubergines in a pan
Aubergines taste great in stir-fries, curries, and stews [Photo: Johannes Ziegler Photo/]

Do I have to peel aubergines?

Normally, aubergines do not need peeling. The skin contains various aromatic substances, vitamins and trace elements, as well as anthocyanins, which give most fruits their dark colour. However, if aubergines are harvested too late, it is a good idea to peel them as the skin has most likely become tough.

Can I eat raw aubergines?

You can eat ripe aubergines raw without fear but stick to kinds that are completely free of bitter substances.

What if the inside of an aubergine is brown?

There are various reasons why an aubergine may be brown on the inside. It is possible that the aubergine is merely overripe and has gone brown around the seeds, in which case it can be used normally. It could also be a bacterial or fungal infestation, which is characterised by an unpleasant, foul odour and mushy tissue. Make sure to cut these parts out generously. Aubergines will likewise turn brown if left lying around after being chopped. When exposed to air, the damaged cells oxidise and take on a rusty brown colour. Simply rubbing some lemon juice on the aubergine flesh will prevent this.

Brown seeds inside an aubergine
The flesh around the aubergine seeds quickly turns brown [Photo: 1508968604/ Shutterstock]

What if an aubergine tastes bitter?

If an aubergine tastes very bitter, it is best to not eat it, unless it is a variety that retains its bitter substances even when ripe. If an aubergine that should be free of bitter substances tastes bitter, it is possible that it still contains toxic solanine. To remove a slightly bitter taste, sprinkle salt on the aubergine slices and then dab off the liquid. Cooking aubergines in water can also improve the taste. Because solanine is water-soluble, it will dissolve in the cooking water, which you can then discard.

A fruity-tasting, exotic-looking relative is the lulo (Solanum quitoense), which is similar to the aubergine. Learn all about this heat-loving nightshade plant, including how to plant and care for it.