Solanum ovigerum Dunal
Solanum trongum Poir.
and see text
Eggplant (Solanum melongena) is a species of nightshade commonly known in British English as aubergine and also known as brinjal, brinjal eggplant, melongene, garden egg, or guinea squash. It bears a fruit of the same name (commonly either "eggplant" in American English or "aubergine" in British English) that is widely used in cooking, most notably as an important ingredient in dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille. As a member of the genus Solanum, it is related to both the tomato and the potato. It was originally domesticated in India from the wild nightshade, the thorn or bitter apple, S. incanum.
S. melongena is a delicate, tropical perennial often cultivated as a tender or half-hardy annual in temperate climates. It grows 40 to 150 cm (16 to 57 in) tall, with large, coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm (4–8 in) long and 5 to 10 cm (2–4 in) broad. Semiwild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm (7 ft) with large leaves over 30 cm (12 in) long and 15 cm (6 in) broad. The stem is often spiny. The flower is white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The egg-shaped glossy black fruit has white flesh with a meaty texture. The cut surface of the flesh rapidly turns brown when the fruit is cut open. On wild plants the fruit is less than 3 cm (1.2 in) in diameter, but very much larger in cultivated forms, reaching 30 cm (12 in) or more in length.
The fruit is botanically classified as a berry and contains numerous small, soft seeds which are edible, but have a bitter taste because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids (it is a close relative of tobacco).
Some 18th-century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen's eggs, hence the name "eggplant."
Other names all derive ultimately from a Dravidian word, with modern reflexes in Malayalam vaṟutina, Tamil vaṟutuṇai. This was borrowed into Sanskrit and Pali as vātiṅgaṇa, vātigama, which in turn was borrowed by Persian as bādingān بادنجان, then by Arabic as (al-)bāḏinjān باذنجان.
The Arabic name is the common source of all the European names for this plant, but through two distinct paths of transmission, with the melongene family coming through the eastern Mediterranean, and the aubergine family through the western Mediterranean.
In the eastern Mediterranean, Byzantine Greek borrowed bāḏinjān as μελιτζάνα melitzána, influenced by Greek μελανο- 'black'. That form came into medieval Latin as melongena, which was used in the botanical works of Tournefort and Linnaeus. Though melongene has become obsolete in the standard English, as has the French melanjan, it persists in the Caribbean English melongene or meloongen. The usual word in Italian remains melanzana.
Even the archaic English name mad-apple comes from the melongena family: in Italian, the word melanzana was reinterpreted in Italian as mela insana, and translated into English as mad apple.
In the western Mediterranean, (al)-bāḏinjān became Spanish berenjena, Catalan as albergínia, and Portuguese beringela. The Catalan form was borrowed by French as aubergine, which was then borrowed into British English.
In South Asian, South African, Malaysian, Singaporean, and West Indian English, the fruit is called brinjal, from the Portuguese. The Indic name baingan or baigan is also sometimes used in South Asian English.
In Eastern Slavic languages, especially Russian and Ukranian, the word bakladjan is used, as directly derived from the Uzbeki bakolochon, which, if interpreted through Turkic transcription from the Farsi, the sound "ko" becomes "dzo" and the preposition falling on the second syllable, "badzin-al-jan" is the closest pronunciation to "aubergine".
The plant is native to the Indian Subcontinent. It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory.][ The first known written record of the plant is found in Qí mín yào shù, an ancient Chinese agricultural treatise completed in 544. The numerous Arabic and North African names for it, along with the lack of the ancient Greek and Roman names, indicate it was introduced throughout the Mediterranean area by the Arabs in the early Middle Ages. A book on agriculture by Ibn Al-Awwam in 12th century Arabic Spain described how to grow aubergines. There are records from later medieval Catalan and Spanish.
The aubergine is unrecorded in England until the 16th century. An English botany book in 1597 stated:
Because of the plant's relationship with the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, the fruit was at one time believed to be extremely poisonous. The flowers and leaves can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities due to the presence of solanine.
Different varieties of the plant produce fruit of different size, shape, and color, though typically purple. The most widely cultivated varieties (cultivars) in Europe and North America today are elongated ovoid, 12–25 cm long (4½ to 9 in) and 6–9 cm broad (2 to 4 in) in a dark purple skin.
A much wider range of shapes, sizes and colors is grown in India and elsewhere in Asia. Larger varieties weighing up to a kilogram (2.2 pounds) grow in the region between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, while smaller varieties are found elsewhere. Colors vary from white to yellow or green, as well as reddish-purple and dark purple. Some cultivars have a color gradient, from white at the stem to bright pink to deep purple or even black. Green or purple cultivars in white striping also exist. Chinese varieties are commonly shaped like a narrower, slightly pendulous cucumber, and were sometimes called Japanese eggplants in North America.
Oval or elongated oval-shaped and black-skinned cultivars include 'Harris Special Hibush', 'Burpee Hybrid', 'Black Magic', 'Classic', 'Dusky', and 'Black Beauty'. Slim cultivars in purple-black skin include 'Little Fingers', 'Ichiban', 'Pingtung Long', and 'Tycoon'; in green skin, 'Louisiana Long Green' and 'Thai (Long) Green'; in white skin, 'Dourga'. Traditional, white-skinned, egg-shaped cultivars include 'Casper' and 'Easter Egg'. Bicolored cultivars with color gradient include 'Rosa Bianca', 'Violetta di Firenze', 'Bianca Smufata di Rosa' (heirloom), and 'Prosperosa' (heirloom). Bicolored cultivars with striping include 'Listada de Gandia' and 'Udumalapet'. In some parts of India, miniature varieties (most commonly called vengan) are popular. A particular variety of green brinjal known as Matti gulla is grown in Matti, a village of the Udupi district in Karnataka state.
The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. Many recipes advise salting, rinsing and draining of the sliced fruit (known as "degorging"), to soften it and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking, but mainly to remove the bitterness of the earlier cultivars. Some modern varieties - including large, purple varieties commonly imported into western Europe - do not need this treatment. The fruit is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, making for very rich dishes, but salting reduces the amount of oil absorbed. Eggplant, due to its texture and bulk, can be used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian cuisine.
The fruit flesh is smooth; as in the related tomato, the numerous seeds are soft and edible along with the rest of the fruit. The thin skin is also edible.
Eggplant is used in the cuisine of many countries. It is often stewed, as in the French ratatouille, or deep fried as in the Italian parmigiana di melanzane, the Turkish karnıyarık or Turkish and Greek musakka/moussaka, and Middle-Eastern and South Asian dishes. Eggplants can also be battered before deep-frying and served with a sauce made of tahini and tamarind. In Iranian cuisine, it is blended with whey as kashk e-bademjan, tomatoes as mirza ghasemi or made into stew as khoresh-e-bademjan. It can be sliced and deep-fried, then served with plain yogurt, (optionally) topped with a tomato and garlic sauce, such as in the Turkish dish patlıcan kızartması (meaning: fried aubergines) or without yogurt as in patlıcan şakşuka. Perhaps the best-known Turkish eggplant dishes are İmam bayıldı (vegetarian) and Karnıyarık (with minced meat).
It may also be roasted in its skin until charred, so the pulp can be removed and blended with other ingredients, such as lemon, tahini, and garlic, as in the Arab baba ghanoush and the similar Greek melitzanosalata. Grilled, mashed and mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices make the Indian and Pakistani dish baingan ka Bhartha or gojju, similar to salată de vinete in Romania, while a mix of roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, celery and spices is called zacuscă in Romania or ajvar in Croatia and the Balkans. A simpler version of the dish, baigan-pora (eggplant-charred or burnt), is very popular in the east Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal, and Bangladesh where the pulp of vegetable is mixed with raw chopped onions, green chillies, salt and mustard oil. Sometimes fried whole tomatoes and burnt potatoes are also added which is called baigan bharta. A Spanish dish called escalivada calls for strips of roasted aubergine, sweet pepper, onion and tomato. In the La Mancha region of central Spain a small eggplant is pickled in vinegar, paprika, olive oil and red peppers the result is berenjena de Almagro, Ciudad Real. A Levantine specialty is Makdous, another pickling of eggplants, stuffed with red peppers and walnuts in olive oil.
Eggplant can be hollowed out and stuffed with meat, rice, or other fillings, and then baked. In the Caucasus, for example, it is fried and stuffed with walnut paste to make nigvziani badrijani. It can also be found in Chinese cuisine, braised (紅燒茄子), stewed (魚香茄子), steamed (凉拌茄子), or stuffed (釀茄子).
Eggplant is widely used in Indian cuisine, for example in sambhar, dalma (a dal preparation with vegetables, native to Odisha), chutney, curry, and achaar. Owing to its versatile nature and wide use in both everyday and festive Indian food, it is often described (under the name brinjal) as the "king of vegetables". In a dish called Bharli Vangi, brinjal is stuffed with ground coconut, peanuts, and masala, and then cooked in oil.
In tropical and subtropical climates, eggplant can be sown directly into the garden. Eggplant grown in temperate climates fares better when transplanted into the garden after all danger of frost is passed. Seeds are typically started eight to 10 weeks prior to the anticipated frost-free date.
Many pests and diseases which afflict other solanaceous plants, such as tomato, pepper (capsicum), and potato, are also troublesome to eggplants. For this reason, it should not be planted in areas previously occupied by its close relatives. Four years should separate successive crops of eggplants. Common North American pests include the potato beetles, flea beetles, aphids, and spider mites. (Adults can be removed by hand, though flea beetles can be especially difficult to control.) Good sanitation and crop rotation practices are extremely important for controlling fungal disease, the most serious of which is Verticillium.
Spacing should be 45 cm (18 in.) to 60 cm (24 in.) between plants, depending on cultivar, and 60 cm to 90 cm (24 to 36 in.) between rows, depending on the type of cultivation equipment being used. Mulching will help conserve moisture and prevent weeds and fungal diseases. The flowers are relatively unattractive to bees and the first blossoms often do not set fruit. Hand pollination will improve the set of the first blossoms. Fruits are typically cut from the vine just above the calyx owing to the somewhat woody stems. Flowers are complete, containing both female and male structures, and may be self-pollinated or cross-pollinated.
According to FAO in 2010, production of eggplant is highly concentrated, with 90% of output coming from five countries. China is the top producer (58% of world output) and India is second (25%), followed by Egypt, Iran and Turkey. More than 4,000,000 acres (1,600,000 ha) are devoted to the cultivation of eggplant in the world.
Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Nutritionally, eggplant is low in fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also contains relatively low amounts of most important vitamins and minerals. A 1998 study at the Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, Brazil, found eggplant juice to significantly reduce weight, plasma cholesterol levels, and aortic cholesterol content in hypercholesterolemic rabbits.
The results of a 2000 study on humans suggested S. melongena infusion had a modest and transitory effect, no different from diet and exercise.
A 2004 study at the Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo found that "eggplant extract with orange juice is not to be considered an alternative to statins in reducing serum levels of cholesterol."
The nicotine content of aubergines, a concentration of 0.01 mg per 100g, is low in absolute terms, but is higher than any other edible plant. The amount of nicotine consumed by eating eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to being in the presence of a smoker. On average, 9 kg (20 lbs) of eggplant contains about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.
Case reports of itchy skin or mouth, mild headache, and stomach upset after handling or eating eggplant have been reported anecdotally and published in medical journals (see also oral allergy syndrome). A 2008 study of a sample of 741 people in India, where eggplant is commonly consumed, found nearly 10% reported some allergic symptoms after consuming eggplant, while 1.4% showed symptoms within less than two hours. Contact dermatitis from eggplant leaves and allergy to eggplant flower pollen have also been reported. Individuals who are atopic (genetically predisposed to developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions) are more likely to have a reaction to eggplant, which may be because eggplant is high in histamines. A few proteins and at least one secondary metabolite have been identified as potential allergens. Cooking eggplant thoroughly seems to preclude reactions in some individuals, but at least one of the allergenic proteins survives the cooking process.
Bt brinjal is a transgenic eggplant which has a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis inserted into it. This variety was designed to give the plant resistance against lepidopteran insects like the brinjal fruit and shoot borer (Leucinodes orbonalis) and fruit borer (Helicoverpa armigera).
On 9 February 2010, the Indian Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, imposed a moratorium on the cultivation of Bt brinjal. His decision was made after protest from several groups responding to regulatory approval of the cultivation of Bt brinjal in October, 2009. Ramesh stated the moratorium will last "for as long as it is needed to establish public trust and confidence".
The eggplant is quite often featured in the older scientific literature under the junior synonyms S. ovigerum and S. trongum. Several other now-invalid names have been uniquely applied to it:
A number of subspecies and varieties have been named, mainly by Dikii, Dunal, and (invalidly) by Sweet. Names for various eggplant types, such as agreste, album, divaricatum, esculentum, giganteum, globosi, inerme, insanum, leucoum, luteum, multifidum, oblongo-cylindricum, ovigera, racemiflorum, racemosum, ruber, rumphii, sinuatorepandum, stenoleucum, subrepandum, tongdongense, variegatum, violaceum and viride, are not considered to refer to anything more than cultivar groups at best. On the other hand, Solanum incanum and cockroach berry (S. capsicoides), other eggplant-like nightshades described by Linnaeus and Allioni, respectively, were occasionally considered eggplant varieties, but this is not correct.
The eggplant has a long history of taxonomic confusion with the scarlet and Ethiopian eggplants, known as gilo and nakati, and described by Linnaeus as S. aethiopicum. The eggplant was sometimes considered a variety violaceum of that species. S. violaceum of de Candolle applies to Linnaeus' S. aethiopicum. There is an actual S. violaceum, an unrelated plant described by Ortega, which used to include Dunal's S. amblymerum and was often confused with the same author's S. brownii.
Like the potato and Solanum lichtensteinii, but unlike the tomato, which then was generally put in a different genus, the eggplant was also described as S. esculentum, in this case once more in the course of Dunal's work. He also recognized varieties aculeatum, inerme and subinerme at that time. Similarly, H.C.F. Schuhmacher and Peter Thonning named the eggplant as S. edule, which is also a junior synonym of sticky nightshade (S. sisymbriifolium). Scopoli's S. zeylanicum refers to the eggplant, and that of Blanco to S. lasiocarpum.
The following are eggplant fruit and plants from various parts of the world.
Purple eggplants showing typical aubergine color
Matti gulla or green brinjal is a special type of brinjal grown in the village Matti, Udupi district of Karnataka State, India.
Brinjal plant from India: The green fruits turn yellow when ripe.
Japanese eggplant flower
Leaf structure of that variety
Plant with long fruits
Long, slender purple eggplant variety
Flowers of the Thai eggplant
Fruit of the Thai eggplant: The white residue on the leaves is common.
Matured yellow eggplant in Malaysia
Berenjenas de Almagro: Seasoned and pickled Almagro eggplant from Spain
A display of different varieties of eggplants, showing eggplant diversity in forms and colors (purple, green, red, white and yellow)
Variegated purple eggplant sold in Australia