Aubergine is a long season crop so whether you live in a sub-tropical or temperate zone, start by sowing seeds into pots, under cover, around August. Only when soil temperatures are between 24 and 32°C is it suitable to shift plants into a permanent situation. For those in warmer climes, this is likely to be around mid to late October. Those in colder parts of the country may have to wait until December and, even then, be prepared to allocate their aubergine a spot in the glasshouse or cover it with a cloche. As a general rule, this heat-loving solanum (aubergines belong to the same family as tomatoes and potatoes) will require 3 to 4 months of reasonably stable temperatures through summer so bear this in mind when considering if it is the plant for you.

Well drained, rich soil is the order of the day for aubergines so prepare the bed in advance by digging in lashings of compost, seaweed, well rotted animal manure and, if soils are clayish, a shovel or two of pumice or fine grit. Pamper with liquid manure every couple of weeks once seedlings are well established. Bees are not particularly drawn to aubergine flowers so get out into the garden with a paintbrush and do the pollinating yourself.

To ensure the best chance of success, be sure to sow the aubergine seed suited to your area. Long Purple is the best variety to grow in cooler areas with shorter summer seasons as it is reasonably quick to mature. White Star, which has large white fruits, is also a good choice for cooler areas but it will still need a sunny spot to thrive. Black Beauty is drought tolerant, and Black Egg, which has smaller fruit on compact plants, is the best choice for those who wish to grow an aubergine as a container plant.