For other uses, see Eggplant (disambiguation).
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Solanum
Species: S. melongena
Binomial name
Solanum melongena

Solanum ovigerum Dunal
Solanum trongum Poir.
and see text

Eggplant (Solanum melongena), or aubergine, is a species of nightshade grown for its edible fruit. Eggplant is the common name in North America and Australia, but British English uses aubergine.[1] It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal.[2] Other common names are melongene, garden egg or guinea squash.

The fruit is widely used in cooking. As a member of the genus Solanum, it is related to the tomato and the potato. It was originally domesticated from the wild nightshade species, the thorn or bitter apple, S. incanum,[3][4][5] probably with two independent domestications, one in South Asia and one in East Asia.[6]


The eggplant is a delicate, tropical perennial often cultivated as a tender or half-hardy annual in temperate climates. The stem is often spiny. The flower is white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The egg-shaped glossy purple fruit has white flesh with a meaty texture. The cut surface of the flesh rapidly turns brown when the fruit is cut open.

It grows 40 to 150 cm (1.3 to 4.9 ft) tall, with large, coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm (3.9 to 7.9 in) long and 5 to 10 cm (2.0 to 3.9 in) broad. Semi-wild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm (7.38 ft) with large leaves over 30 cm (12 in) long and 15 cm (5.9 in) broad. On wild plants, the fruit is less than 3 cm (1.2 in) in diameter, but much larger in cultivated forms: 30 cm (12 in) or more in length.

Botanically classified as a berry, the fruit contains numerous small, soft seeds that, though edible, taste bitter because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids like the related tobacco.


The plant species originated in cultivation. It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory. The first known written record of the plant is found in Qimin Yaoshu , an ancient Chinese agricultural treatise completed in 544.[7] 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.[8] There are records from later medieval Catalan and Spanish.[9]

The aubergine is unrecorded in England until the 16th century. An English botany book in 1597 stated:

This plant groweth in Egypt almost everywhere... bringing forth fruit of the bigness of a great cucumber.... We have had the same in our London gardens, where it hath borne flowers, but the winter approaching before the time of ripening, it perished: nothwithstanding it came to bear fruit of the bigness of a goose egg one extraordinary temperate year... but never to the full ripeness.[10]

Because of the plant's relationship with other nightshades, 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.[11]

The eggplant has a special place in folklore. In 13th century Italian traditional folklore, the eggplant can cause insanity.[12] In 19th century Egypt, it was said that insanity was "more common and more violent" when the eggplant is in season in the summer.[13]

Etymology and regional names

Closeup of an eggplant flower of a long-fruited Chinese variety in Hong Kong

The plant and fruit have a profusion of English names: eggplant (North America, Australia), aubergine (Britain), brinjal (South Asia, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, and West Indies, Trinidad), melongene (Caribbean), and formerly melongena and mad-apple.

The word "eggplant" was first recorded in 1767, and was originally applied to white varieties;[14] some 18th-century European cultivars were small, round, yellow or white, resembling goose or hen's eggs. The other names, even mad-apple, all ultimately derive from a Dravidian word with reflexes in modern Malayalam vaṟutina and Tamil vaṟutuṇai, transmitted through Sanskrit vātigama, Prakrit vāiṃaṇa, Persian بادنجان bādingān, and Arabic bāḏinjān باذنجان.[15]

The Anglo-Indian name "brinjal" or brinjaul comes from the Portuguese bringella, bringiela, or beringela,[15] whereas the name baingan or baigan, also sometimes used in English in South Asia as well as in Trinidad, appears to be re-borrowed from the Sanskrit or Persian name.[16]

Eggplant with chicken eggs

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 western Mediterranean, the Arabic (al)-bāḏinjān was borrowed as Spanish alberengena and berenjena, Catalan albergínia, and Portuguese beringela, whence the modern French aubergine (and the earlier albergine, albergaine, albergame, belingèle), the source of the British English aubergine.[15]

...probably there is no word of the kind which has undergone such extraordinary variety of modifications, whilst retaining the same meaning, as this...
 Hobson-Jobson (1886)[16]

In the eastern Mediterranean, bāḏinjān was borrowed into Byzantine Greek first as ματιζάνιον, then modified to μελιτζάνα melitzána and melanzana, influenced by Greek μελανο- 'black'. This came into Italian as melongiana and melanzana, and into Medieval Latin as melongena. The Latin name was later used by Tournefort as a genus name, then by Linnaeus as a species name. These forms came into English; though melongene has become obsolete, as have the French merangène, melongène/melanjan, it persists in the Caribbean English melongene or meloongen.[17] In Italian, melanzana was interpreted as mela insana 'crazy apple'; this was translated into English as mad apple.[12]

Cultivated varieties

Three varieties of eggplant

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 (4 12 to 9 in) and 6–9 cm broad (2 to 4 in) with 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—white at the stem; to bright pink, deep purple or even black. Green or purple cultivars with white striping also exist. Chinese varieties are commonly shaped like a narrower, slightly pendulous cucumber, and are sometimes miscalled Japanese aubergines in North America. But there are also Asian varieties of Japanese breeding.


Genetically engineered aubergine

Bt brinjal is a transgenic aubergine that contains a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.[19] This variety was designed to give the plant resistance to lepidopteran insects like the brinjal fruit and shoot borer (Leucinodes orbonalis) and fruit borer (Helicoverpa armigera).[19][20]

On 9 February 2010, the Environment Ministry of India imposed a moratorium on the cultivation of Bt brinjal after protests against regulatory approval of cultivated Bt brinjal in 2009, stating the moratorium would last "for as long as it is needed to establish public trust and confidence".[19] This decision was deemed controversial, as it deviated from previous practices with other genetically modified crops in India.[21] Bt brinjal was approved for commercial cultivation in Bangaladesh in 2013.[22]

Cooking and preparing

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eggplant-based food.

The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, or even an astringent quality, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. 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. Many recipes advise salting, rinsing and draining the sliced fruit (a process 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.

Eggplant is used in the cuisines of many countries. Eggplant, due to its texture and bulk, is sometimes used as a meat substitute in vegan and vegetarian cuisine.[23] 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 widely used in its native India, for example in sambhar (a tamarind lentil stew), dalma (a dal preparation with vegetables, native to Odisha), chutney, curry, and achaar (a pickled dish). Owing to its versatile nature and wide use in both everyday and festive Indian food, it is often described (under the name "baingan" or "brinjal") as the "king of vegetables". Roasted, skinned, mashed, mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices and then slow cooked gives the South Asian dish baingan bharta or gojju, similar to salată de vinete in Romania. Another version of the dish, begun-pora (eggplant charred or burnt), is very popular in Bangladesh and the east Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal where the pulp of the vegetable is mixed with raw chopped shallot, green chilies, salt, fresh coriander and mustard oil. Sometimes fried tomatoes and deep-fried potatoes are also added, creating a dish called begun bhorta. In a dish called bharli vangi, brinjal is stuffed with ground coconut, peanuts, and masala (spices), and then cooked in oil.

Eggplant is often stewed, as in the French ratatouille. Eggplant is also often 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 ghassemi 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 imam 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. A mix of roasted eggplant, roasted red peppers, chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots, celery and spices is called zacuscă in Romania , and ajvar or pinjur in the Balkans.

A Spanish dish called escalivada in Catalonia calls for strips of roasted aubergine, sweet pepper, onion and tomato. In Andalusia, eggplant is mostly cooked thinly sliced, deep fried in olive oil and served hot with honey ("Berenjenas a la Cordobesa"). 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.

Cultivation and pests

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 has passed. Seeds are typically started eight to ten weeks prior to the anticipated frost-free date. Solanum melongena is included on a list of low flammability plants, indicating that it is suitable for growing within a building protection zone.[24]

Spacing should be 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 in) between plants, depending on cultivar, and 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in) between rows, depending on the type of cultivation equipment being used. Mulching helps 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 by shaking the flowers improves the set of the first blossoms. Growers typically cut fruits 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.[25]

Many of the pests and diseases that afflict other Solanaceous plants, such as tomato, pepper (capsicum), and potato, are also troublesome to eggplants. For this reason, it should generally not be planted in areas previously occupied by its close relatives. However, since eggplants can be particularly susceptible to pests such as white flies, they are sometimes grown with slightly less susceptible plants, such as pepper, as a sacrificial trap crop. Four years should separate successive crops of eggplants to reduce pest pressure.

Common North American pests include the potato beetles, flea beetles, aphids, white flies and spider mites. Mature adult pests can be removed by hand, though flea beetles can be especially difficult to control. A commonly used herbicide for eggplant is dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate. Good sanitation and crop rotation practices are extremely important for controlling fungal disease, the most serious of which is Verticillium.


Production of eggplant in 2013 by country[26]

In 2013, global production of eggplants was 49.4 million tonnes. More than 1,600,000 hectares (4,000,000 acres) are devoted to the cultivation of eggplants in the world.[27] 57% of output comes from China alone.[28] India (27% of world total), Iran, Egypt and Turkey were also major producers that, combined with other Asian countries, constituted 94% of world production.[28]

Top countries in eggplant
production (2013)(millions of tonnes)(million sq. mi)[28]
RankCountryProduction Production/Area
1  China 28.4 7.68
2  India 13.4 10.56
3  Iran 1.4 2.2
4  Egypt 1.2 3.08
5  Turkey 0.8 2.64
49.4 0.85


Eggplant, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 104 kJ (25 kcal)
5.88 g
Sugars 3.53 g
Dietary fiber 3 g
0.18 g
0.98 g
Thiamine (B1)

0.039 mg

Riboflavin (B2)

0.037 mg

Niacin (B3)

0.649 mg

Pantothenic acid (B5)

0.281 mg

Vitamin B6

0.084 mg

Folate (B9)

22 μg

Vitamin C

2.2 mg

Vitamin E

0.3 mg

Vitamin K

3.5 μg


9 mg


0.23 mg


14 mg


0.232 mg


24 mg


229 mg


0.16 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Nutritionally, raw eggplant is low in fat, protein, dietary fiber and carbohydrates (see table). It also provides low amounts of essential nutrients, with only manganese having a moderate percentage (11%) of the Daily Value (table). Minor changes in nutrient composition occur with season, environment of cultivation (open field or greenhouse), and genotype.[29]


The color of purple skin varieties is due to the anthocyanin nasunin.[30]

The browning of eggplant flesh results from the oxidation of polyphenols, such as the most abundant phenolic compound in the fruit, chlorogenic acid.[31]


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, with 1.4% showing symptoms within less than two hours.[32] Contact dermatitis from eggplant leaves[33] and allergy to eggplant flower pollen[34] 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.[35] Cooking eggplant thoroughly seems to preclude reactions in some individuals, but at least one of the allergenic proteins survives the cooking process.


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:[36]

Segmented purple eggplant

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.[36]

The eggplant has a long history of taxonomic confusion with the scarlet and Ethiopian eggplants (Solanum aethiopicum), known as gilo and nakati respectively, 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.[36]

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 the 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.[36]

See also


  1. Aubergine, Oxford English Dictionary, Undated.Retrieved: 7 August 2015.
  2. "Oxford Dictionary, s.v. brinjal". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  3. Tsao and Lo in "Vegetables: Types and Biology". Handbook of Food Science, Technology, and Engineering by Yiu H. Hui (2006). CRC Press. ISBN 1-57444-551-0.
  4. Doijode, S. D. (2001). Seed storage of horticultural crops (pp 157). Haworth Press: ISBN 1-56022-901-2
  5. Ancestor of brinjal Solanum incanum
  6. "USDA GRIN Taxonomy". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  7. Fuchsia Dunlop (2006), Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province, Ebury Press, p. 202
  8. The Book of Agriculture by Ibn Al-Awwam, translated from Arabic to French by J.-J. Clément-Mullet, year 1866, volume 2 page 236.
  9. The first record of Catalan albergínia = "aubergine" is in 1328 according to the Catalan dictionary There is an earlier record in Catalan, from the 13th century, according to the French Centre National de Ressources Textuelles et Lexicales. A number of old variant spellings for the aubergine word in Romance dialects in Iberia indicate the word was borrowed medievally from Arabic; Dictionary of Arabic and Allied Loanwords: Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Galician and Kindred Dialects, by Federico Corriente, year 2008 page 60.
  10. The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, by John Gerarde, year 1597 page 274.
  11. Kitchen Daily (30 August 2012). "Is Raw Eggplant Poisonous?". Kitchen Daily.
  12. 1 2 Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2000, s.v. 'mad-apple'
  13. Edward William Lane, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, v. 1, p. 378, footnote 1.
  14. Oxford English Dictionary, 1st edition, 1891, s.v. 'eggplant'
  15. 1 2 3 Oxford English Dictionary, 1st edition, 1888, s.v. 'brinjal', which supersedes the 1885 OED etymology s.v. 'aubergine'
  16. 1 2 Henry Yule, A.C. Burnell, Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary, 1886, reprint ISBN 185326363X, p. 115, s.v. 'brinjaul'
  17. Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, 2001, s.v. 'melongena' and 'melongene'
  18. Stephens, James M. "Eggplant, White — Solanum ovigerum Dun. and Solanum melongena var. esculentum (L.) Nees." (PDF). University of Florida IFAS Extension. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
  19. 1 2 3 Kumar S, Misra A, Verma AK, Roy R, Tripathi A, Ansari KM, Das M, Dwivedi PD (2011). "Bt brinjal in India: a long way to go". GM Crops. 2 (2): 92–8. doi:10.4161/gmcr.2.2.16335. PMID 21865863.
  20. Kumar S, Chandra A, Pandey KC (2008). "Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) transgenic crop: an environment friendly insect-pest management strategy". J Environ Biol. 29 (5): 641–53. PMID 19295059.
  21. Choudhary B, Gheysen G, Buysse J, van der Meer P, Burssens S (2014). "Regulatory options for genetically modified crops in India". Plant Biotechnol J. 12 (2): 135–46. doi:10.1111/pbi.12155. PMID 24460889.
  22. IANS (2016-09-07). "Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh: Too early to draw conclusions on contamination, says expert". Business Standard India. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  23. "Vegetarian Meat Substitutes".
  24. Mark Chladil and Jennifer Sheridan. "Fire retardant garden plants for the urban fringe and rural areas" (PDF). Tasmanian Fire Research Fund.
  25. Westerfield, Robert (2008-11-14). "Pollination of Vegetable Crops" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-01.
  26. "FAOSTAT". Retrieved 2016-04-07.
  27. "FAOSTAT". FAO. 2012-05-12. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  28. 1 2 3 "Production/Crops for Eggplant in 2013". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  29. San José R, Sánchez-Mata MC, Cámara M, Prohens J (2014). "Eggplant fruit composition as affected by the cultivation environment and genetic constitution". J Sci Food Agric. 94 (13): 2774–84. doi:10.1002/jsfa.6623. PMID 25328929.
  30. Noda, Yasuko; Kneyuki, Takao; Igarashi, Kiharu; Mori, Akitane; Packer, Lester (2000). "Antioxidant activity of nasunin, an anthocyanin in eggplant peels". Toxicology. 148 (2–3): 119. doi:10.1016/S0300-483X(00)00202-X. PMID 10962130.
  31. Jaime Prohens, Adrián Rodríguez-Burruezo, María Dolores Raigón and Fernando Nuez (2007). "Total Phenolic Concentration and Browning Susceptibility in a Collection of Different Varietal Types and Hybrids of Eggplant: Implications for Breeding for Higher Nutritional Quality and Reduced Browning" (PDF). J Amer Soc Hort Sci. 132 (5): 638–646.)
  32. B. N. Harish Babu *, P. A. Mahesh † and Y. P. Venkatesh * A cross-sectional study on the prevalence of food allergy to eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) reveals female predominance. Clinical & Experimental Allergy 38(11):1795–1802, 2008
  33. Kabashima K., Miyachi Y. Contact dermatitis due to eggplant Contact Dermatitis 2004;50(2):101–102
  34. Gerth van Wijk R, Toorenenbergen AW, Dieges PH. Occupational pollinosis in commercial gardeners. [Dutch] Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd 1989;133(42):2081-3
  35. SN Pramod,* YP Venkatesh. Allergy to Eggplant (Solanum melongena) Caused by a Putative Secondary Metabolite. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2008; Vol. 18(1): 59–62
  36. 1 2 3 4 Solanum melongena L. on Solanaceae Source: Images, specimens and a full list of scientific synonyms previously used to refer to the eggplant. Archived March 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
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