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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Eggplant (Solanum Melongena, Linn.). Solanaceae. Guinea Squash. Aubergine of the French. Strong perennial herb or sub-shrub, grown as a vegetable-garden annual for its large fruits, which are eaten cooked; requires a long warm season.

The eggplant is native of the tropics, probably from the East Indies, but its native land is not known. It is cultivated to a greater or less extent throughout the entire tropical regions. The first reports of its use as a vegetable come from India, hence the above assumption. In the United States it is cultivated as a vegetable as far north as New York, but it usually grows to greater perfection in the southern states. It is much grown in Florida. The demands for it in the early months of the year have not been fully supplied. Its cultivation demands a specialist as much as either celery or tobacco, while the specialization must be in a different direction from that of either one of these. Nearly all of the fruit that grows to proper size is edible, and there is no special demand for particular flavors. Eggplants are forced under glass to a limited extent for home use. They require the temperature of a tomato house, and great care must be taken to keep off red-spider and mites. In order to insure large fruits, practise artificial pollination. Non- pollinated fruits will grow for a time, but always remain small (Fig. 1379).

Soil.—Eggplant will grow on almost any land in the South, but it develops to greater perfection on a rich, deep, loamy soil free from debris. In the clay districts this is not easily secured, but there are often small fields that are sufficiently dry and yet contain enough sand to make eggplant- growing profitable. No matter whether clay land, loam or sandy land be employed for raising this crop, it will be necessary to plow deeply and thoroughly. The land should be drier than that required by cabbage or beets. In fact it will stand a greater drought than the ordinary vegetables. On the other hand, one should not attempt to grow a crop on land that is composed of large particles, such lands as are ordinarily called "thirsty in the vegetable-growing sections of Florida.

Fertilizer.—On the coastal plains of the South Atlantic and Gulf States, barn manure is of doubtful value for fertilizing eggplant. When it is advisable to use this material, it is preferable to compost it and use it in the form of well-rotted stable manure. A cheaper and at the same time preferable way of securing the humus necessary in the loamy sands is to grow leguminous plants that are not subject to root-knot. Such plants will give much more humus and at a cheaper price than can be obtained by the use of stable manure. On the loamy sands, the fertilizer should not be applied until after the plants have been set out and have started. A small quantity is then applied by hand or by drill. On very poor land, as much as 200 to 500 pounds of a good home-mixed fertilizer should be used. In the course of two to four weeks, the eggplants will have shown the effect of the fertilizer and by this time will be making a considerable growth. A second application may then be made of as much more, or twice as much as was used the first time. Later in the season, when the plants are beginning to make bloom buds or setting the fruit well, an after-dressing of nitrate of soda could be applied if the plants show need of further fertilizing, using it at the rate of 100 to 300 pounds to the acre. This can be applied very readily by hand or by the use of a fertilizer drill. The hand method is more economical of fertilizer but more costly in applying. On the heavy clay lands less potash will be needed and in those places in which a stiff clay is employed for gardening purposes, the potash may be reduced to 4 or 5 per cent, or even eliminated. Ammonia and phosphoric acid are needed on nearly all the soils.

Propagating the seedlings.—The time required to bring plants into bearing from seeds varies with the condition of the soil and the temperature. During cool weather the plants grow very slowly, but during hot weather they grow rapidly and mature fruit in much less time. Those who wish to have early fruit and are able to use hotbeds or propagating-houses should sow the seed 120 to 150 days before the fruit is wanted. Prepare the hotbeds as for other seedlings, and sow in rows a few inches apart. When these are beginning to show their leaves or when the seedlings are beginning to look spindly, they should be pricked out and transferred to another bed. In this each plant should be given about a 2-inch square; then they may be forced until the plants crowd one another in the bed, when they should be transferred again. When the plants have attained the size of 6 inches, and the atmosphere will permit, they may be set out in the field. A somewhat more laborious, but at the same time more successful plan, is to plant the seedlings in 2-inch flower-pots and then shift to larger ones as often as the plants become pot-bound or crowd one another in the bed. Fig. 1380 represents a plant three-tenths natural size, just taken from a flowerpot and ready to be shifted to a larger one. By shifting until 6-inch pots are reached, the eggplant may be forced along without injury to blooming size or even to a size when fruit is beginning to set, and then set out in the field without injury to the plants or crop. Eggplant-growers should bear in mind constantly that from the time of sprouting the seeds to the harvesting of the crop, the plants cannot stand a severe shock in their growth without detriment to the crop. When the plant is once started, it should then be forced right along and never allowed to become stunted during its growth. The amount of damage done by neglecting plants before they are set in the field varies with the severity of the shock and the length of time during which the plant undergoes the disadvantageous conditions. If it becomes necessary to harden the plants off before setting them in the field, this should be done gradually. Culture in the field.—After the field has been thoroughly prepared in the way of plowing and fertilizing, which should have been done at least two weeks before the plants were set out, the rows should be laid off 3 to 4 feet apart. The plants may be set 2 to 4 feet apart in the row, varying with the varieties to be used and the soil. Tillage should be continued and varied according to the conditions of the weather. In a wet season it is well to cultivate the land as deeply as possible, while in dry weather cultivation should be shallow, simply sufficient to keep the weeds from growing, to keep the soil well aired, and to keep mulching of dry soil on the land. Under ordinary circumstances it does not pay to prune or pinch out the buds, but when the season is short this may be resorted to with, some advantage. If it is desirable to have the fruit attain a certain size before frost, one may begin to pinch out the blossoms and new growth about three weeks before its usual occurrence. This same process will be of advantage when the fruit is to be brought into market at a certain time. A great many attempts have been made to hold eggplants over the summer, that is to have a spring cropping and then allow the plants to remain in the field, cultivate them up and make a fall crop from the old stalks. Sometimes this process is successful but generally speaking it is a wasteful and expensive method. The old plants that have borne a crop should be discarded and a frosh seed-bed started to bring the plants in at the time desired. If about 150 days are allowed from the time of sowing the seed, the grower will have a good field of fresh plants to start in with, which will produce a higher quality and larger quantity of fruit.

Marketing.—It is better to cut the fruit from the plant than to attempt to break it, especially if the work is being done by careless laborers. After cutting the fruit, it may be placed in large baskets and hauled to the packing-house for crating. Each fruit should be wrapped separately in heavy paper, either manila or brown, and care must be exercised not to wrap it while moist. Formerly the large crate was generally employed, but in the last ten years there has been a decided tendency toward reducing the size of the crate. The eggplant crate is now about double the size of the bean crate, and usually ships at the 80-pound rate. The eggplant is regarded as a staple vegetable, consequently fancy wrapping-paper or fancy methods of packing do not pay for the trouble. It stands shipment well to distant markets, so that freight shipments are usually employed. At times in the winter and spring, the price of eggplant becomes very high and then the shipments go forward by express.

Varieties.—There are only a few varieties offered in the market. The New York Improved Spineless matures a little earlier than the Black Pekin. The New York Purple (Fig. 1381). Black Pekin and the New York Spineless are excellent for shipping purposes. The above varieties are the black-fruited, and the most popular in the United States, while the white-fruited sorts are said to be the most popular in Europe. For home use, the white-fruited varieties are preferable, but as these make poor sellers in the United States, one must raise the purple sorts for market. For home gardens, the early and small Early Dwarf Purple (Fig. 1382) is useful. It is particularly recommended for northern climates. There are three main types of eggplants, as follows: The commoner garden varieties, Solanum Melongena var. esculentum, Bailey (Figs. 1381, 1383); the long-fruited or "serpent" varieties, S. Melongena var. serpentinum, Bailey; the Early Dwarf Purple type var. depression, Bailey (Fig. 1382). See Solanum. The so-called Chinese eggplant is a different species, for which consult Solanum.

Seed-growing.—This is by no means a difficult operation and may be done profitably in certain sections of the South. For this purpose all defective or dwarfed plants in the field should be cut out. By a little attention one will be able to know when the seeds have matured sufficiently for gathering. At this time the eggs usually turn a lighter color or even somewhat yellow. The fruit should be gathered and carried to the packing-house, where it may be left in a pile for two or three days, as there is very little danger from rotting. When a sufficient number have been collected, the laborers may be set to paring off the extra amount of meat on the outside of the seed. The remaining core may then be cut longitudinally into quarters or eighths, using a dull knife to avoid cutting the seed. After a quantity of these have been pared, they may be placed in a barrel and covered with water. The barrel should not be made more than two-thirds full. In a day or two fermentation will set in and the meaty portion will macerate from the seed. The seed may then be separated from the meat by means of sieves, using first wide-meshed ones to remove the meat and then finer-meshed ones to screen out the seed from the finer pulp. The seed should not be allowed to stand more than two or three days in the macerating barrel, as the heat evolved by fermentation and the heat of the summer is liable to cause them to germinate. After separating the seed from the pulp, it should be dried in the shade and wrapped in secure packages. By covering with tin-foil or oil-paper, the atmospheric moisture will be kept out and molding prevented.

Diseases.—The most destructive of diseases in the lower South is a blight fungus which attacks the plant just beneath the surface of the ground, causing the softer tissues at this point to rot off and the plant to die. The fungus is not able to penetrate the harder portion of the stem, consequently the plant lingers along for weeks after being attacked. A number of attempts have been made to cause this blight fungus to produce fruiting organs so it could be classified, but up to the present this has proved futile. In such cases as this there is no remedy. After the plant is attacked, it is usually doomed. Much, however, can be done in the way of preventing the spread of this fungus. If all plants are destroyed as soon as found to be affected, the fungus cannot perfect its sclerotia, or rusting state, and thus its propagating is prevented. The normal home of this fungus is in decaying vegetable matter. If, therefore, a field is kept free from this sort of material one will do much to prevent this fungus from being present. Some soluble form of fungicide, as Eau Celeste or potassium sulfide, may be sprayed about the roots of the plants to good advantage. Practise rotation of crops. A second form of blight is caused by Bacillus solanacearum. This disease has its origin of infection in the leaves, and is introduced by means of insects which have fed upon diseased plants and carried the infection to the well ones. The disease works rapidly down the tissues and causes the death of the leaf and finally of the whole plant. The only remedy for this is to destroy all plants that are affected with the disease as soon as detected, and kill off all insects. When this disease is known to be present in a section, it is best to set the plants as far apart as practicable. In this way the danger of infection from insects is somewhat reduced. When the disease is known to be present in a field it should not be planted to this crop. Anthracnose (Gloeosporium melongenae) does not cause great damage to this crop, but is one of the agents that reduce the profits. "It may be recognized by its producing decided pits in the fruit, upon which soon appear minute blotches bordered with pink." Bordeaux mixture may be used to good advantage for preventing this disease. Phoma solani frequently causes damping-off in the hotbed. It often renders a whole bed worthless. Plants affected with this fungus usually fall over as if eaten off by some insect. Some plants, however, continue a miserable existence and finally die. Careful examination will reveal the point of injury, which is at the ground-level. The best preventive is to use well- drained beds and then avoid excessive watering. When damping-off is detected in a seedling bed, the atmosphere and surface soil should be dried as rapidly as possible, followed by one application of fungicide.

Insect enemies.—Among the most annoying of the insect enemies is the cutworm (larvae of Noctudiae). These insects are almost omnipresent, and when nearly full grown are liable to cut off plants that are 4 or 5 inches high. It is not common for one insect to cut off more than a single plant, but in ordinarily fertile soil there are enough cutworms present to destroy the entire field. So that, on the whole, it becomes very annoying. When these insects are quite destructive, it is possible to kill them with poisoned bran or poisoned cottonseed meal, sweetened with syrup or sugar. Another insect that does more or less damage is the cotton bollworm (Heliothis armiger). This insect does its damage by boring a hole into the stems or the fruit. In the latter case it causes it to rot before it is picked, or possibly in transit. As the fruit becomes larger there is less danger of attack from this insect, so that the main trouble occurs in the earlier stages of its growth. The eggplant aphis (Siphonophora cucurbitae) is one of the most annoying pests to this crop. It usually makes its appearance about the time the crop is fit to ship, and appears in such numbers that the plants are ruined in the course of a week or two. The insect attacks the lower surface of the leaves, making it difficult to reach the pests with insecticides, but persistent efforts and a good tobacco decoction, applied with a fine nozzle, will give considerable relief. Sulfur spray or other mild contact insecticide will be found more uniformly effective than tobacco decoction. Whale-oil soap is an excellent insecticide to use. Kerosene emulsion and insecticides made from the miscible oils, largely employed in proprietary insecticides, should be avoided. While they may be used effectively, there is considerable danger from scalding in handling by indifferent laborers. P. H. Rolfs.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Eggplant / Aubergine
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Binomial name
Solanum melongena
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Type Species

The eggplant, aubergine, or brinjal (Solanum melongena) is a solanaceous plant bearing a fruit of the same name, commonly used as a vegetable in cooking. It is closely related to the tomato and potato and is native to southern India and Sri Lanka. It is an annual plant growing 40 - 150 cm tall (16 in - 57 in), often spiny, with large coarsely lobed leaves 10-20 cm long and 5-10 cm broad. The flowers are white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The fruit is a fleshy berry, less than 3 cm in diameter on wild plants, but much larger in cultivated forms. The fruit contains numerous small, soft seeds. (Semi-)wild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm (84 in.) with large leaves over 30 cm long and 15 cm broad.



Solanum melongena, flower

The eggplant is an important food crop grown for its large, pendulous, purple or white fruit. It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asian countries since prehistory but appears to have become known to the Western world no earlier than ca. 1500 CE. The numerous Arabic and North African names for it, along with the lack of ancient Greek and Roman names, indicate that it was introduced throughout the Mediterranean area by the Arabs who invaded Persia in the early Middle Ages. The scientific name Solanum melongena is derived from a 16th-century Arabic term for one kind of eggplant.

The name eggplant in the United States, Australia, and Canada developed from the fact that the fruits of some 18th-century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen's eggs. Aubergine is the British name given to this fruit, from the French aubergine, derived from Catalan albergínia; from Arabic al-bãdhinjãn الباذنجان, Persian بادنجان bâdinjân from Sanskrit vatinganah.

Because of the eggplant's relationship with the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, it was at one time believed to be poisonous.

Cultivated varieties

A purple eggplant which has been sliced in half, showing the inside. The flesh surrounding the seeds is already beginning to oxidize and turn brown just minutes after slicing.
The most widely grown cultivars in Europe and North America today are elongated ovoid, 12-25 cm long and 6-9 cm broad with a dark purple skin. A much wider range of shapes, sizes and colors is grown in India and elsewhere in Asia. There, cultivars that closely resemble a hen's egg in both size and shape are widely grown; 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, and green or purple cultivars with white striping also exist. Chinese eggplants are commonly shaped like a narrower, slightly pendulous cucumber.

Numerous other names are used, many derived from the Sanskrit vatinganah, which has given birth to a number of names for this plant in various languages and dialects: brinjal, badingan, melongena, melanzana, berenjena, albergínia, aubergine, brown-jolly, and mad-apple (a misinterpretation of the Italian melanzana as mela insana). [1]

Oval or elongated oval-shaped and black-skinned cultivars include: 'Harris Special Hibush', 'Burpee Hybrid', 'Black Magic', 'Classic', 'Dusky', and 'Black Beauty'.

Long, slim cultivars with purple-black skin include: 'Little Fingers', 'Pingtung Long' and 'Tycoon'; with green skin: 'Louisiana Long Green' and 'Thai (Long) Green'; with white skin: 'Dourga'.

Traditional, white-skinned, oval-shaped cultivars include 'Casper' and 'Easter Egg'.

Bicolored cultivars with color gradient include: 'Rosa Bianca', and 'Violetta di Firenze'.

Bicolored cultivars with striping include: 'Listada de Gandia' and 'Udumalapet'.

Matti Gulla or Matti brinjal is a unique variety of brinjal grown in the village of Matti in Udupi; it is light green in color and round in shape. Some brinjals of this variety weigh more than one kilogram.

Matti Gulla
Solanum melongena, fruit


Melanzane alla Parmigiana, or Eggplant Parmesan (baked aubergines with Parmesan cheese).

The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste but, when cooked, becomes tender and develops a rich, complex flavour. Salting and then rinsing the sliced eggplant will soften and remove much of the bitterness. This process is called degorging. Lightly sprinkling the slices with salt, and laying them out on a paper or cloth towel for 20-30 minutes will accomplish this. However, many modern varieties do not need this treatment as they are not that bitter. The eggplant is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, allowing for very rich dishes. On the other hand, if it is undesirable for the fruit to absorb a lot of oil, then the salting process will reduce this effect. 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, so that the eggplant need not be peeled.

The eggplant is used in cuisines from Japan to Spain. It is often served stewed, as in the French ratatouille, the italian melanzane alla parmigiana, the Greek moussaka, and many South Asian dishes. It may also be roasted in its skin until charred, so that the pulp can be removed and blended with other ingredients, as in the Middle Eastern dish baba ghanouj and the similar Greek dish melitzanosalata. It can be sliced, battered, and deep-fried, then served with various sauces: yoghurt-based, tahini-based, or tamarind-based. The eggplant can also be 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.

As a native plant, it is widely used in the South Indian cuisine, for example in sambhars, chutneys, curries, and kootus. Owing to its versatile nature and wide use, in both everyday and festive South Indian food, it is often described (under the name brinjal) as the 'King of Vegetables' in South India.

Peeled and roasted eggplant/brinjal, mixed with onions, tomatoes, and spices for flavor, makes up the Indian dish called Baingan ka bharta (also known as vangyacha bharta in Marathi).

Nutritionally, eggplants are low in energy (30kcal/100g), protein (1.2%) and vitamin C (5mg/100g), but rich in potassium and calcium.


In tropical and subtropical climates, the 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 past. Seeds are typically started eight to ten weeks prior to the anticipated frost-free date.

Many pests and diseases which afflict other solanaceous vegetables, i.e. tomato, pepper (capsicum), potato, etc. 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 beetle, flea beetle, aphids and spider mites. Many of these can be controlled using Bacillus thurengensis (Bt), a bacterium that attacks the soft-bodied larvae. (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 in the aubergine is Verticillium.

Spacing should be 45 cm (18 in) to 60 cm (24 in) between plants, depending on cultivar, and 60 cm (24 in) to 90 cm (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 semi-woody stems.


Studies of the Instituto de Biociências of the UNESP de Botucatu, São Paulo showed that aubergine is effective in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia and in the control of the cholesterol (about 30% reduction).[citation needed]

See also

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