Eggplant seed should be as easy #seedsavingformarketgrowers as tomatoes and peppers.
They are selfers with crossing rates similar to peppers. (That means you will get some crossing if you don’t use isolation distances but not heavy crossing.)
And again, this is one of those crops where the seed is in the vegetable part. So you don’t have to do anything extra to get eggplant plants to go to flower and then to seed.
You do have to let the fruits get extra mature because unlike tomatoes, we tend to eat eggplants at an immature fruit stage when the seeds have not yet fully matured.
So, eggplant seed should be easy to save.
But eggplants have really frustrated me. Over many years of saving seed, I have not been able to get consistently high germination in my saved eggplant seeds. Some seed lots germinate well, and some wind up at 40% to 60%.
Now 40% to 60% germination rates might not be a problem for a market gardener – just sow extra seed! But as a commercial seed company, we can’t sell that kind of seed.
Some advice I got a couple of years ago was to only leave a couple fruit to mature per plant. Just pick off the rest and the plant will focus its energy into the few fruit it has left. This also makes sure that those remaining eggplants have a real long season to turn big and brown and yellow full of nice fat seeds packed with germination power.
Last year, we followed that advice. We left the first two eggplants on each plant and picked down any remaining fruit to eat. The seeds from the fruit germed at 99%.
Hopefully we can repeat this success.
And as for you and your market garden?
I’ll let you make that call.