Eggplant

Eggplant, aubergine or brinjal is a plant species in the nightshade family Solanaceae. Solanum melongena is grown worldwide for its edible fruit. Most commonly purple, the spongy, absorbent fruit is used in several cuisines. Typically used as a vegetable in cooking, it is a berry by botanical definition.



It was originally domesticated from the wild nightshade species thorn or bitter apple, S. incanum, probably with two independent domestications: one in South Asia, and one in East Asia. Though eggplant fruits are usually a beautiful dark purple color, they can also be white, pink, green, black, or variegated purple-white. Their size and shape varies as well, ranging from the large, gourd-shaped eggplants


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

1 - 8 feet (depending on the variety)


Width-Circumference (Avg)

1 - 3 feet


Approximate pH

5.5 - 6.5


Different Types of Eggplant Varieties


Little Green Eggplant


This one is round, plump, and pale-green in color. After cooking, the texture turns extra creamy and lends a very mild flavor.


Globe Eggplant



It is also famous as the American Eggplant and is considered to be the fattest and biggest, growing up to 10-14 inches in length! The meaty texture makes it best for grilling and slicing.


Italian Eggplant


The Italian eggplant resembles a standard Globe eggplant but has certain distinguishing characteristics. It is small but still fat and it has very tender flesh. Italian Eggplant has a teardrop shape with a deep purple color. It has a sweeter flavor as compared to the American Eggplant. The Italian eggplant is perfect for any Italian recipe that calls for eggplant so research those recipes online and enjoy this scrumptious type of eggplant.


Japanese Eggplant



Japanese Eggplant is available in a wide range of shades of deep purple, pale purple, or even black. It is best suited for stir-frying, pan-frying miso, and Thai grilled dishes.


Ping Tung Eggplant



It is longer in size with a tender and sweet flesh. This eggplant comes from Taiwan and tastes best when grilled. Serve it with salt and olive oil.


Rosa Bianca Eggplant



It is somewhat bulbous in shape and has a more delicate taste with less bitterness. You can use it to make stuffed and baked eggplant dishes.


Graffiti Eggplant



Graffiti Eggplant is attractive and has delicate stripes, and is available mainly in both big or small sizes. It is best enjoyed when baked, roasted, and stewed.


Santana Eggplant



If you love bigger eggplants, then you should consider choosing this one! It can grow up to 6-8 inches wide! The most amazing way to cook this eggplant is to grill it or roast it.


Tango Eggplant



This eggplant has a shape of an egg or a pear with white skin. It has a creamier texture and tastes best when grilled and roasted.


Thai Eggplant



This small eggplant type is very common in Thailand and is found in shades of purple, white, and green. To neutralize its bitterness, get rid of the seeds before you cook.


Indian Eggplant



This type of eggplant is small and has a reddish-purple color. Great stuffed or roasted, it is also called the Baby eggplant and it is used frequently in Indian dishes that use curry, among other dishes.


White Eggplant



The White Eggplant has a strong, bitter taste, and it could be a bit intense on your tongue. In Middle Eastern cuisines, it is mostly used to make dips such as Baba ghanoush.


Fairy Tale



It has beautiful white and purple-color skin with a soft and sweet-tasting flesh. It tastes best when grilled and also takes less time to cook because of its small size.


Thai White Eggplant


Thai White Eggplants are sort of an outlier in the world of eggplants, as they are also eaten as it is – raw. The crunchiness makes them perfect for making snacks or dips.


Filipino Eggplant



Filipino Eggplant is thinner and longer as compared to its Italian cousin. It tastes mild and sweet when cooked and grilled.


Planting Eggplant


  • Plant eggplant in a location that gets full sun—6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day—for the best results.

  • Eggplant grows best in a well-drained sandy loam or loam soil that is fairly high in organic matter. To improve soil fertility, mix 1 inch of well-rotted manure, compost, or a general fertilizer such as 5-10-5 throughout the planting bed about a week before planting. (Apply 2 to 3 pounds per 100 square feet. Or, apply 1¼ pounds of 5-10-5 per 10 feet of row when the row spacing is 4 feet.)

  • Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5 for best growth.


Growing in Containers

  • Raised beds, which warm more quickly than ground soil, are ideal for growing eggplant.

  • If you’re growing eggplant in pots, use a dark-colored container that will absorb more sunlight. Put one plant per 5-gallon (or larger) pot in full sun and outdoors so it can be pollinated. Use a premium potting mix to avoid disease.


When to Plant Eggplant

  • Start seeds indoors in flats or peat pots 6 to 8 weeks prior to the last spring frost date. Seeds germinate quickly at temperatures between 70° to 90°F (21° to 32°C). Alternatively, buy 6- to 8-week-old nursery transplants just before planting.

  • Do not plant eggplant transplants into the garden until after the last threat of frost.

  • If purchasing transplants: Buy high-quality specimens. Do not purchase tall, spindly plants or young plants that already have blossoms (ideally, young plants should spend energy becoming established before they begin flowering).


How to Plant Eggplant

  • Start seeds indoors, sowing them ¼ of an inch deep in flats or peat pots.

  • After risk of the last spring frost has passed and daytime temperatures are 70° to 75°F (60° to 65°F at night), set seedlings in holes 24 to 30 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Use a covering of black plastic mulch to warm soils before setting out transplants if soil temperatures aren’t yet high enough.

  • Immediately after planting (in ground or pot), set 24-inch-high stakes 1 to 2 inches from each plant or use cages to provide support and avoid disturbing the soil or roots later. Eggplant will fall over when laden with fruit.

  • After planting, water well. Add a layer of mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

  • If you live in a cold climate, consider using row covers to keep the young eggplants warm and sheltered. Open the ends of the row covers on warm days so that bees may pollinate the eggplants’ flowers.


Growing Eggplant


  • Eggplant will fall over once loaded with fruit! Be sure to stake tall plants or use a cage to keep the plants upright. If growing eggplant in containers, stake the stems before the fruit forms.

  • Water well to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches so the soil is moist but never soggy. Consistent watering is best, and a soaker hose or drip system at ground level is ideal.

  • The critical period for moisture is during fruit set and fruit development. Strangely shaped eggplants result from inconsistent or inadequate watering.

  • Mulching can help to provide uniform moisture, conserve water and reduce weeds.

  • Apply a balanced fertilizer every 2 weeks or so.

  • Note: Too much nitrogen may cause excessive vegetative growth. If you are using plastic mulch, apply fertilizer through drip irrigation, or apply fertilizer to the side of the row.

  • For bigger fruits, restrict to five or six per plant, pinching off the extra flowers that develop.

  • For a bushier plant, pinch out the terminal growing points, the central points on a plant from which new shoots and leaves grow. Look for the newest (and usually smallest) leaves at the center of the plant and pinch out the bud forming there.

  • Eggplants are susceptible to temperature fluctuations: Cool nights (below 55°F/13°C) or hot days (above 95°F/35°C) can cause lack of fruiting. Cover plants on cold nights and provide shade (e.g., a beach umbrella) on hot, sunny days. Cold also impairs ripening.


Harvesting


  • Harvest eggplant 65 to 80 days after transplanting, depending on the variety. When starting from seed, expect 100 to 120 days to maturity. July, August, and September (even into October) are all harvest months for eggplant, depending on where you live and the variety you planted.

  • Don’t wait too long to harvest! Eggplant tastes best when harvested young. Then, the plant’s energy will go into producing new fruit. If you harvest early and often, the plant will be quite prolific. Once ready, check on your eggplants every 2 to 3 days.

  • The best way to gauge the time to harvest: Fruits are ripe when their skin doesn’t rebound to gentle pressure from your finger. Harvesting is a bit of an art; fruits can taste bitter if picked when underripe or overripe. The skin of the fruit should look glossy and unwrinkled and have a uniform color. If you cut the eggplant open, the seeds should be soft but formed. If the skin looks faded and the seeds inside are dark and hard, the fruit will taste bitter.

  • Japanese eggplant may be ready to harvest when the size of a finger or hot dog.

  • When harvesting, do not pull the fruit (it won’t come off). Cut the fruit off with a sharp knife (the stem is tough) close to the stem above the green cap (calyx) on the top, leaving about an inch of it attached. The calyx can be prickly, so gloves are helpful.

  • You can cut these plants back like peppers if your season is long enough for a second crop.


How to Store Eggplant

  • Eggplants can be stored for up to 2 weeks in humid conditions no lower than 50°F (10°C).

  • In the refrigerator, they will keep for several days.

  • Do not wash or cut in advance to avoid damaging the skin, which will quickly perish if exposed.

  • To avoid discoloring of eggplant after cutting open for cooking or grilling, use a marinade with salt, vinegar, and/or lemon juice.


Pests and Diseases


Pests


1. Aphids and Whiteflies


Aphids and whiteflies both have piercing, sucking mouthparts used to suck the sap out of eggplant leaves and stems. Both pests are primarily found on the undersides of the leaves. As they feed, they secrete a sticky waste known as honeydew. Dark-colored sooty mold often develops on the honeydew, which reduces the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. The silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia argentifolii) is the predominant species of whitefly that affects eggplant, and the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) is the predominant aphid species.


2. Flea Beetles


Eggplant is a favorite host of multiple species of flea beetles, which are mostly in the genus Epitrix. Flea beetles have chewing mouthparts and feed on leaves, making small, shot-like holes. Their damage is most serious when the plants are small and have just a few leaves. Once the plants are larger, a fair amount of injury can be tolerated.


3. Colorado Potato Beetle


Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) larvae and adults feed on eggplant foliage with their chewing mouthparts. Populations can build up quickly and cause significant defoliation and yield loss. In small gardens, adults and larvae are easy to handpick and squish or drop in a bottle of soapy water. In larger gardens, chemical control may be necessary.


4. Hornworms


Tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta) and tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) are large caterpillars capable of rapidly eating large amounts of foliage. They use their chewing mouthparts to feed, leaving behind little more than the large leaf veins. Just a few hornworms may cause significant defoliation in small gardens. The horn on the rear end is harmless; therefore, remove hornworms by hand when found.


5. Stink bugs and Leaf-footed Bugs


Stink bugs (various species in the insect family Pentatomidae) and leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossus phyllopus) feed on young developing fruit by inserting their piercing, sucking mouthparts. This frequently leads to a discolored spot beneath the skin that becomes evident when the fruit is sliced. The spot may be depressed on the outside of the fruit. Both juveniles and adults feed on developing fruit. Small amounts of feeding damage often go unnoticed, though populations may occasionally build up to problematic levels.


6. Spider Mites


Two spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) may become a pest on eggplant foliage, especially after the use of broad spectrum insecticides. Typically, spider mites feed on the lower surfaces of leaves by inserting their piercing, sucking mouthparts, and extracting the plant’s sap. Populations may increase rapidly in times of hot, dry weather. Large populations may create webbing on the foliage and cause a yellow stippling symptom to develop on the foliage as they feed.


Diseases


1. Phytophthora Blight


Phytophthora blight (caused by Phytophthora capsici or P. nicotianae) is a water mold that may attack eggplant roots, leaves, stems, or fruit. Symptoms include dark streaking on the upper branches of the plant, followed by the rapid collapse of the plant and death. Avoiding excessive soil moisture is an important strategy for managing Phytophthora diseases.


2. Bacterial Wilt


Bacterial wilt (caused by Ralstonia solanacearum) is a serious bacterial disease that causes sudden wilting of the plant. The entire plant withers and dies quickly following infection. The pith inside the stem turns reddish-brown, and there is relatively little yellowing of the leaves. To avoid bacterial wilt, do not plant eggplant in areas that have had tomatoes, Irish potatoes, or eggplant planted in the previous three years. Proper crop rotation is important in helping to avoid the buildup of soilborne pathogens.


3. Southern Blight


Symptoms of southern blight (caused by Athelia rolfsii) are found on the stems at the surface of the soil. As the disease progresses, a white mat of fungal mycelium (threadlike growth) develops around the base of the stem, rotting the stem and causing the plant to yellow, wilt, and die. Small, round, brown and tan pellets called sclerotia, which are the survival structures, form and drop into the soil. Sclerotia remain viable in the soil for several years until the next susceptible crop is planted. Avoid planting in areas where tomatoes, peppers, snap beans, or eggplants were planted in the last 3 years. In addition, remove infected plants from the garden.


4. Phomopsis Blight


Phomopsis blight (caused by Phomopsis vexans) is a fungal disease that most commonly attacks the fruit, but the collar rot stage can cause the stem to become narrower than normal and break off at about 1 to 2 inches above the soil line. Leaves may also have gray or brown spots that are rounded or oval-shaped. Fruit spots start as pale, sunken areas that rapidly enlarge to become soft and spongy down into the flesh. Phomopsis blight is more common in the fall than in the spring.


Benefits of Eggplant


Eggplants are good for digestion


Eggplants not only soothe many kinds of digestive issues but can also increase the absorption of nutrients from other foods you eat alongside them. It’s also rich in prebiotics, a type of fiber that helps feed your good gut bacteria (probiotics) and boost their population.


Probiotics are essential for a healthy gut, healthy brain, and a strong immune system. The fiber in eggplants also plays an essential role in promoting regular bowel movements, preventing constipation, and stimulating the secretion of gastric juices that facilitate food processing and nutrient absorption.


May improve bone health


Eggplants are delicious, versatile and colorful additions to any meal. While they might not be the first vegetables that come to mind when you think of foods that promote bone health, they actually make an excellent addition to any healthy diet. Eggplants are rich in potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, making them a great addition to the diet to promote bone health.


Potassium and calcium work together to enhance general bone health and strength. Potassium aids calcium absorption in the gut while calcium is needed to build and maintain strong bones.


Vitamin K, on the other hand, enhances bone cell production and the regulation of calcium, which increases bone density and strength.


Eggplants are also high in phenolic compounds that have been shown to strengthen bones, increase bone mineral density, and lower the signs of osteoporosis. It’s these phenolic compounds that give eggplants their various skin pigmentation.


In addition, eggplants contain a large amount of silica, which helps strengthen and maintain bone structure. Studies have shown that those who eat foods rich in silica—such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds—are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis. Silica can also help reduce inflammation within joints, thus helping relieve the symptoms of arthritis and other joint conditions.


Contains powerful antioxidants


Antioxidants are compounds that prevent cell damage when oxygen reacts with harmful substances in the body known as free radicals.


This cell damage may disrupt normal cell function and cause inflammation which can initiate different chronic conditions.


Consuming foods rich in antioxidants will help neutralize the free radicals, thus preventing oxidation and its effects.

Nasunin is the most abundant type of anthocyanin antioxidant contained in eggplants. It helps fight oxidative stress and inflammation, which is a foundation for most diseases. It also protects against cell mutations, cell death, and DNA and cell membrane damage caused by oxidation.


Prevents cancer


Eggplants are rich in various cancer-fighting compounds, including anthocyanin, solasodine rhamnosyl glycosides (SRGs), and chlorogenic acid that have been shown to offer cancer-protective benefits.


Chlorogenic acid, in particular, prevents free radicals from forming cancerous cells and inhibits tumor growth and cancer cell proliferation.


Chlorogenic acid also acts as an anti-microbial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and helps lower bad cholesterol.


Helps lower cholesterol


Eggplants have long been recognized as a powerful heart-healthy food, but many don’t realize that they can even lower cholesterol levels. In fact, one study found that eggplants possess the same ability to lower LDL cholesterol as statin drugs. The secret lies in one of the eggplants’ most powerful phytochemicals, nasunin (also known as nasin). Nasunin is a powerful anthocyanin that has proven to lower cholesterol levels.

High cholesterol levels are a significant risk factor for heart disease, increased blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.


Eggplants are also high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and prevent the reabsorption of bile which helps lower cholesterol levels.


Promotes weight loss


There are several ways that eggplant can help you lose weight. First, it is high in fiber, and fiber has been shown to aid in healthy digestion and weight loss. Additionally, being low in calories means that eggplant can aid in appetite control while satisfying your hunger cravings between meals. Plus, it also helps fill you up more quickly, so you don’t overeat when it’s time for a meal.


The fiber in eggplants also inhibits the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which prompts one to eat.


Improves heart health


Eggplants are rich in bioflavonoids, which are great at lowering blood pressure. This, in turn, will reduce the strain on the heart, improve circulation and generally promote a healthy cardiovascular system.


The fiber in eggplant may reduce the bad cholesterol and triglycerides, which are risk factors for developing heart disease.


Low HDL may also lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.


The anthocyanins in eggplant also help lower inflammation which may increase the risk for heart disease.


May help in the management of diabetes


Researchers have found that eggplant’s active ingredient, nasunin, helps prevent dangerous blood sugar spikes in diabetes. Nasunin is particularly effective at inhibiting an enzyme secreted by the salivary glands when chewing. This enzyme slows the breakdown of starch in food.


This helps to slow digestion and reduce blood glucose levels after eating starchy foods like bread or potatoes. It also improves insulin sensitivity, which can help lower your risk of developing diabetes. If you don’t already eat eggplant regularly, try adding it to stir-fries or roasting it with olive oil and sea salt for a delicious side dish.


High fiber in eggplants also helps regulate glucose levels – since fiber slows down digestion and absorption of sugar in the body, it will keep your sugar levels steady. This will allow for controlled insulin secretion, thus giving your cells time to heal and be more insulin sensitive and receptive.


Improves brain function


Eggplants are rich in phytonutrients, natural plant compounds known to promote mental health and cognitive functions. They also protect against free radicals and improve blood flow to the brain, which delivers oxygen and other nutrients that the brain needs.


Also, eggplant contains scopoletin, a compound that regulates the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain. This may help improve mood and reduce depression and anxiety.


Eggplant is also rich in B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B9, which help your body manage stress better.


Promotes skin and hair health


Eggplants are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that prevents free radicals from damaging your skin cells.


This helps promote healthy and youthful skin while preventing premature signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, age spots, and saggy skin.


The anti-inflammatory effects of eggplant also minimize different skin conditions, including eczema and dermatitis.


Also, the minerals in eggplants, including iron, zinc, folate, and potassium, increase blood circulation to the scalp, improve scalp health, strengthen hair strands, and promote the growth of new hair follicles.


May Help Prevent Anemia


A deficiency in iron can be very dangerous to overall health, and it can manifest as anemia. Anemia is characterized by headaches (some at a migraine level), fatigue, weakness, depression, and even cognitive malfunction. Therefore, eating foods high in iron may help combat anemia, and eggplants are iron-containing food. Eggplants are also potentially rich in copper, another essential component of red blood cells (RBCs), just like iron. Without these two minerals, the red blood cells in the body cannot function normally. With healthier red blood cells coursing through your veins, you will see a noticeable boost in energy and strength, which will eliminate feelings of fatigue


Uses

  • It can be grilled, stuffed, roasted, served in soups and stews and on kabobs, and used in curries and stir-fries.

  • Eggplant is used in the cuisines of many countries.

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