The wild dandelion is frequently used as greens, but the leaves are much inferior to those of cultivated varieties, which are larger and often cut or frilled. The most common use of the leaves is for greens, although when blanched with soil they are valuable for salads. The frilled forms make attractive garnishes. The plants are grown in many private gardens and some commercial growers have found small areas very profitable.
A deep, rich soil is required to grow large leaves. It should be prepared as soon as possible in the spring and the seed sown at once in shallow drills a foot or more apart, depending upon the method of cultivation. The plants should be thinned to at least 6 inches in the row, and more space is favorable to large leaves. Several cuttings may be made, but the first is always the finest. Some growers plow and start some other crop after harvesting one lot of leaves. The plants are often held over winter, when very early cuttings may be made the following spring. Top dressings of nitrate of soda are valuable for this crop.
Dill is one of the many herbs used for flavoring. The seed is especially popular in the flavoring of pickles. It should be sown thinly, about « inch deep, early in the spring in rows a foot or more apart and thinned to 6 or 8 inches.
The eggplant is thought to have been originated in the East Indies, although there is no definite information concerning its early history. It is generally grown in tropical countries, and is an important vegetable in the United States. The southern and south Atlantic states, New Jersey and California, grow large quantities for commercial purposes. In the cooler regions of the North it is often grown in the home gardens, but seldom in commercial plantations. The market demand is increasing.
The eggplant is an erect, branching, tender annual. The leaves are entire, oblong and grayish-green. The violet-colored flowers are solitary in the axils of the branches, shortly stalked and monopetalous; calyx often spiny, becoming larger as the fruit develops. The fruits are variable in shape, color and size, and are ready to use when one-third grown, continuing to be edible until fully mature. When the seeds begin to harden, the flesh loses its tenderness and delicious qualities. The fruits are usually sliced and fried.
There are three distinct colors of eggplants; namely, black, purple and white. Black-fruited varieties find most ready sale; purple-fruited sorts are attractive in appearance, but the smaller size of the specimens is objectionable from the market standpoint; white varieties are seldom seen on the market.
New York Improved is one of the most popular and largely grown of purple sorts. The fruits are large, well shaped and very attractive.
Black Beauty is an improvement over the New York Improved. The fruits ripen about 10 days earlier, are darker in color, and attain a size sufficient to satisfy market requirements.
Black Pekin has been grown commercially for many years, although it is not so popular in recent years as Black Beauty and New York Improved.
Early Long Purple is probably the earliest and hardiest of all varieties in cultivation. It is especially adapted to the cooler parts of the North, where the larger varieties do not succeed so well. The fruits are purple and 9 to 10 inches long.
Ivory is a white-fruited variety originated by Dr. B. D. Halstead of the New Jersey Experiment Station. The fruits are beautiful and nearly seedless. The white varieties are much more popular in Europe than in America.
On account of its extreme tenderness this vegetable is produced to best advantage in southern sections, because it requires higher temperatures than any other vegetable grown in the United States. Cool nights and short summers are very unfavorable to satisfactory yields. Because of the subtropical character of the plant, special care must be exercised in most sections to secure satisfactory results.
It is generally conceded that warm sandy soils are best adapted to eggplants. Good crops are seldom grown in clay soils except under the most favorable climatic conditions. It is important that the soil be deep, rich and well drained. A liberal amount of decaying vegetable matter is essential to the largest returns. Southern exposures should have the preference.
Only about 25 per cent of the eggplant seed used in the United States is imported, the seed being grown in the various sections where soil and climatic conditions are satisfactory. The saying of seeds is a simple matter. The fruits should be allowed to ripen thoroughly on the plants before removing the seeds. Separation and cleaning are readily effected by means of fermentation to loosen the pulp, followed by washing and screening.
In nearly all parts of the country, glass or other protection is given when starting the plants. In the North, the sowings are always made in greenhouses or hotbeds, while in the South, cloth or glass-covered cold frames are used, especially in starting early plants. The aim should be to grow a strong, stocky, hardened plant ready for the field at the desired time. In the North there are few sections where field planting should occur before June 1. To grow plants of the proper size by this date, the seeds need not be sown before March 10. Many successful growers prefer to sow later than this.
A temperature of not less than 65 degrees should be provided for germination, and from 65 to 75 should be maintained until the plants are set in the open ground. The seedlings require considerably more heat than tomatoes and somewhat more than peppers. If hotbeds are used it is often necessary to make up two beds, one for the germination of the seeds and the other for the care of the plants after they have been pricked from the seed bed. It is difficult to supply an excess of heat either in hotbeds or greenhouses. Too much care cannot be exercised to encourage a steady, unchecked growth. Stunting the plants at any period will cause the hardening of the tissues, resulting in a decreased yield of smaller fruits.