Table of Contents
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Varieties
- 3 Planting eggplant
- 4 Growing eggplant
- 5 Diseases
- 6 Pests
- 7 Eggplant uses
- 8 History and facts
Eggplant (lat. Solanum melongena) is a plant species that belongs to the Solanaceae family, same as potato, tomato, pepper, tobacco, belladonna and nightshades. Thanks to its edible fruits, it is grown all over the world. For eggplant, we often think that it is a vegetable, although it is a fruit, more precisely it belongs to the berries and is classified as such because it contains tiny, edible seeds.
It is usually purple-blue and when fully ripe, all fruits are yellow. Eggplant is named after a fruit that looks like a goose egg. It may not have as much nutritional value, but is low in calories and is a good source of dietary fiber, especially if consummated with the peel. It also contains a small amount of the minerals calcium and manganese, as well as vitamins C and B and phosphorus.
Phytonutrients found in eggplant include phenolic compounds, caffeine and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids such as nasution. Phenolic acid gives the eggplant its bitter taste and causes it to turn brown after being sliced.
The growing season is from August to September, but they can grow throughout the year if planted under a special environment. This plant grows up to 70 cm (2 ft) and has a branching stem that can have thorns. The stem has both leaves, about 15 cm (6 in) long and about 10 cm (4 in) wide, and flowers that can be any color from white to purple. Eggplant can also be yellow, white, or green. The leaves and flowers can be poisonous due to the presence of the poisonous substance solanine, which is a natural pesticide.
The name eggplant is usual in Australian English and North American English. It was first recorded in 1763, and, since they look very much like hen’s eggs, was originally applied to white species. Similar names are widespread in some other languages, such as the Welsh planhigyn ŵy or the Icelandic term eggaldin.
The egg-shaped, white varieties are also known as "garden eggs", a term that was first written in 1811. In 1797 and 1888 The Oxford British Dictionary recorded the name "vegetable egg"
Most of the diverse European names for the eggplant derive from the Arabic word "bāḏinjān" which is later borrowed into Greek by 19th century CE. The Greeks made a variety of forms, but crucially they began with m-. Later, the Greek word was borrowed into medieval Latin (Melongena) and Italian (Melanzāna) and onwards into French (Melanjan).
Eggplant is usually perceived as an oblong, dark purple vegetable with a green cap to which it is attached. Although it is the most popular type of eggplant, the world of eggplant species is much larger. They can be large, small, oblong, short, sweet, or bitter. You will find varieties with lots of stripes, while others are one-colored. Regardless of the color and shape of the eggplant you buy, always choose eggplants that have smooth and shiny skin.
Eggplants are divided into 3 basic groups:
- lat. Solanum melongena var. Esculentum - the most common species, includes white eggplant
- lat. Solanum melongena var. Depressum - dwarf eggplant species
- lat. Solanum melongena var. Serpentium - a type of snake-shaped eggplant
Small and medium-sized eggplant species have a better, sweeter taste, fewer seeds and more sensitive skin.
Black beauty, also known as Globe eggplant or American eggplant is an eggplant that we usually see in the store. This species is larger and has a shiny dark purple skin. They are often not as tasty as other types of eggplant. Their size varies from 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 in).
Italian eggplant and American eggplant have two differences: Italian eggplant is smaller and sweeter than American and it is quite difficult to distinguish them.
Japanese eggplant is long, thin, and dark purple. It has a great texture and is slightly smaller than Chinese eggplant. Some types of eggplant are Hybrid Mangan, Shikou, Kurume, Hybrid Millionaire, Hybrid Shoya Long, Hybrid Mangan, and Hybrid Black King.
Chinese eggplant is as long and thin as Japanese, but its color is light purple. The two well-known types of Chinese eggplant are Oriental (Purple Charm) and Ping Tung Long, but there are other types such as Purple Excel, HK Long, Bride, Ma-Zu Purple, Purple shine, Hybrid Asia Beauty, Hybrid Long White Angle, Fengyuan Purple, and Machiaw.
Eggplant graffiti can be both larger and smaller, and they are named after their patterns. They have small seeds and very thin skin that does not need to be removed before preparation. Some types of Graffiti Eggplant are Purple Rain, Shooting Stars, Pandora Striped Rose, Listada De Gandia, and Fairytale.
Bianca eggplant is a large, round type of Italian eggplant with thin and light purple or white skin. The meat of this species is sweet and creamy.
White eggplant has several types, and some are Casper, Clara, Japanese White Egg, Snowy White, Opal, and many others. Tango eggplant is a white eggplant that can be egg-shaped or pear-shaped. It has very thick skin, which becomes even thicker when the eggplant turns yellow during harvesting.
Other, lesser-known varieties of eggplant:
- Santana eggplant - the Italian version of dark purple eggplant
- Indian eggplant - belongs to the group of dwarf eggplants. It is also called baby eggplant because it is small, and dark red, or purple in color
- Small green eggplant - full, round, and light green
- Thai eggplant - small, round, and greenish-white eggplant. It belongs to a rare species of eggplant
- Diamond - a type of eggplant from Russia that thrives in colder temperatures
- African garden eggplant - small, bitter, and usually green in color
Although it is not difficult to grow this extremely tasty plant, it is still necessary to know the basic prerequisites and conditions for successful growth and development.
Best time to plant
Eggplant should be planted after the last frost and when the soil temperature exceeds 10°C (50°F). It will take 60 to 120 days to mature.
Eggplants must have sufficient soil depth 0.6 to 1.2 m (2 to 4 ft) deep for undisturbed root growth. Place it in a place where it will have a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day.
Planting from seeds
After selecting the seed, it should germinate. Plan to start sowing the seed about 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost. This will allow your plants enough time to become stable and strong. You can also cover the soil with some kind of lightweight material to conserve soil heat and allow it to warm up thoroughly before sowing the seeds. Plant the seeds at a depth of 0.6 cm (1/4 in). The best distance between plants is about 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 in). The seeds should be covered with a small amount of soil.
If you are planting eggplant from seedlings, do not take seedlings from plants that already have flowers or fruits. In order for this planting to be successful, it is necessary to choose a seedling of a quality plant. Transplant it into the garden at a distance of about 40 cm (1.5 ft) from other plants and in rows with enough space of 90 cm (3 ft) between them.
Growing in garden
You have more space to grow larger species of eggplant in the garden, and due to the weight and size of its fruits, it is advisable to place some sort of support to prevent the eggplant from touching the ground. Large eggplant species can grow up to 36 cm (3 ft) in height. Make sure you plant it in a place where you will easily be able to water it regularly.
Growing in greenhouse
The method of growing eggplant in a greenhouse is more common in countries where temperatures are lower. It should be sown in early spring at a minimum temperature of 15°C (59°F). If the climate is warm enough, it won’t need superficial lighting and natural lighting will be enough.
Growing in containers
If you plan on planting eggplants in containers, make sure you choose one of the dwarf species. If you planted the eggplant in a pot over the winter and want to take it outside, wait for the daily temperature to reach around 21°C (70°F), but when night falls make sure you take them indoors. Eggplant grown in pots should be fertilized more often than those planted outside.
This plant may be a perfect choice, but you'll need to pay a lot of attention to details. Make sure you provide it with good conditions, keep it in warm soil and protect it from insects and diseases and it will reward you with healthy fruits.
Eggplant grows well next to beans, calendula, tarragon, and thyme. It does not go well with fennel, onion, and garlic. Aromatic plants such as lavender and velvet can prevent the appearance of aphids.
Eggplant is a sensitive, tropical perennial that is grown in warm climates and prefers humidity. In order for the fruits to be as good as possible, it is desirable to grow eggplant at a regular 25 to 30°C (77 to 86°F). If planted indoors, it should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. It poorly tolerates cold. Eggplants that grow in cold soil or are exposed to cold weather will become smaller over time and can potentially suffer from insect and disease problems.
It is recommended to grow it on sandy, loamy or clay soil, but it will grow well in almost any type of soil. The most suitable soils are those that are acidic, neutral, or alkaline, and the pH of the acid that suits the plant best varies from 5.8 - 6.5. It does not prefer moist soil.
The soil can be enriched before planting and when the fruits appear. Generally, the eggplant should not be fertilized at intervals of less than 3 weeks. The plant must be watered after each fertilization. Eggplant should be fertilized once or twice during its season with tea, compost, or other appropriate preparations.
Watering is very important, especially when the eggplant is young and is just in the process of branching the roots. Watering the fruits should be avoided and focus more on the soil. Too much water that stays in the soil for a long time can cause root rot, while too little water can cause fruit rot. For best results, it would be desirable to lightly spray the eggplant fruits with a water mist sprayer.
Eggplant should get about 2.5 cm (1 in) of water a week, and the best time to water is early in the morning or evening when temperatures are a little lower. If you can, water it in the early morning because sunlight will dry out the rest of the water and prevent the appearance of fungal diseases of eggplant.
The worst time for watering is the middle of the day when temperatures are high because then the water evaporates before the plant absorbs it. The only exception is that if you notice a poor condition of the plant, you need to water the plant immediately, whether it is morning, noon, or evening.
Eggplant is a hermaphrodite, it can have both male and female organs, and it is pollinated by insects. If your plant is not visited by enough insects, gently shake the flower stalks with a soft brush.
Make sure to plant the eggplant in a suitable soil that is fertile and drained, to get enough light, and that water does not settle at the root of the plant. Eggplant is maintained similarly as peppers or tomatoes. Every part of the plant that falls off should be picked up and thrown away.
Heat around the lower part of the plant is key to successful growth. Heating cables help, and it would be optimal to heat the eggplant to about 23°C (74°F). As already mentioned, the soil is often covered with a cloth to keep the heat on the ground as long as possible.
Seedlings that have two sets of leaves can be transplanted into pots 2 to 3 weeks after they germinate. If your plant receives light through artificial light sources, you need to bring those light sources closer to it as it grows.
Its stem sometimes has thorns, so it would be best to use scissors. The eggplant fruit is firmly attached to the stem so plucking the fruit with your hands can harm the fruit or stalk. To allow the proper maturation of large eggplant species, the plant should be limited to 4 fruits. Use your fingers to pluck the flowers of the plant to ensure a bushy spread.
If the eggplant is hard to the touch, then it is still too young to pick. If you press the eggplant and it is elastic, it is the right time to harvest it. If you press the eggplant and a dent remains on it then the eggplant is overmatured. Fruit that is not fully ripe may have a milder taste. In that case, you need to pick it up and throw it away.
In very warm climates, the eggplant could lose the shine of the fruit before it grows fully, so it should be harvested earlier. It is best to consume it fresh because it dries quickly.
Eggplant is best when eaten fresh, without prior storage in the refrigerator. You can store it for up to a week at cool room temperature. If you still plan to store it for a longer period of time, store it in the refrigerator. Be careful when handling eggplant because it "bruises" easily, and once the "bruises" turn black, they will turn brown and taste bad. The optimal storage temperature is 10°C (50°F).
The most common diseases that attack eggplant are cucumber mosaic virus and verticillium wilt.
Cucumber mosaic virus
If you notice that the eggplant leaves are twisted and have green spots of irregular shape, one of the reasons for this could be the cucumber mosaic virus. This virus causes the leaves to change shape to a deformed, twisted appearance. This disease infects many plants that belong to the same family and causes slow growth.
Verticillium wilt is a disease that causes wilting of plants. Trees such as beech, birch, boxwood, oak, pear, apple, walnut are resistant to this, and it is desirable to plant eggplant next to the aforementioned trees.
Eggplant is rarely attacked by pests, but snails, caterpillarsy and smaller insects could be noticed.
Potato moth (lat. Phthorimaea operculella) is an insect that likes to feed on plants that belong to the Solanaceae family. The female of this moth uses the leaves to lay eggs so that larvae can then eat the leaf.
Eggplant cultivation can also be hindered by insects called eggplant insects. These miniature creatures make tiny holes in the leaves of plants resulting in dark-colored spots. If you paint containers dark it will keep the insects away and help warm the roots on sunny days.
Tomato hornworm or caterpillar (lat. Manduca quinquemaculata) is a type of worm that often attacks plants from this family and can do them a lot of harm. They eat all parts of the plant, leaves, stem, and fruit. They are green, which helps them camouflage, making them harder to spot. They are about 10 cm long and have white stripes with a red or black horn on top. Adults can reach a length of 12 cm and be gray or brown.
Eggplant is popular among vegetarians because it is a good meat substitute and is good for diets which is why the production increases every year.
Use in cooking
After washing it, eat it immediately as the extra moisture can cause rapid decay. If it is fresh, you don't need to peel it, but older eggplants and some species naturally have a hard rind, should be peeled.
The appearance of brown color can be slowed down by soaking eggplant in ice water or spraying it with lemon juice or vinegar. Eggplants are like sponges and will, therefore, absorb oil very easily.
In order not to get greasy during cooking or if you do not want your eggplants to be bitter, you can cut the eggplant into pieces and sprinkle with salt and leave it to stand for 30 to 60 minutes, although with some types of eggplant this method will not alleviate the bitter taste. After that, the salt should be washed off, the excess moisture dried with a paper towel, and then stored as planned.
You can bake, stuff, steam, fry, or sauté eggplant. If you plan on baking it in a stove in one piece, pierce it with a fork so it doesn’t accidentally explode.
Use in medicine
Eggplant contains antioxidants that prevent several diseases. It keeps the brain and eyes healthy, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Eating eggplant is beneficial for those who have excessive amounts of iron in their body, while people with low iron levels and kidney stones should avoid it.
People allergic to fruits from the same family should avoid eating it as it contains high levels of histamine which, if consumed, can cause an allergic reaction such as itching, coughing, abdominal pain or vomiting.
History and facts
Eggplant is native to India and Pakistan, where it grows wild and was domesticated more than 4,000 years ago. It was first mentioned in a Chinese agricultural study written in 544 called Qimin Yaoshu. The migration of eggplants continued from the ninth to the twelfth century to the Middle East and west to Egypt.
The Moors introduced eggplant to the Spaniards, and the fruit, then became popular throughout Europe. A book on agriculture from the 12th century written in Andalusia contains a text about growing eggplant.
The Spaniards considered eggplant an aphrodisiac and called it the "apple of love". This, of course, contributed to the popularity of the unusual fruit.
In England, eggplant did not appear until the 16th century when Albert of Cologne called the fruit "Little Insana" or "crazy apple" (similar to the Italian name "melanzana") as at that time it was believed that eggplants cause madness.
It is believed that it was Thomas Jefferson who brought this fruit to the United States in 1806 when he received an eggplant as a gift from a friend from France.
Eggplant contains more nicotine than any other edible plant. In order to ingest that amount of nicotine found in one cigarette, you would need to eat about 9 to 18 kg (20 to 40 lb) of eggplant.
Photo: Eric Michelat / Pixabay