A plant in the nightshade family Solanaceae called eggplant (Solanum melongena) is cultivated worldwide for its edible fruit. And that spongy, usually purple, absorbent fruit is used in many kitchens.
Believe me or not, but even though it is used as a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, the plant is a berry! Eggplants have a quite bitter yet good taste and a spongy texture when eaten raw. But, once you cook it, the flavor becomes milder and a bit richer.
They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, copper, and vitamin B1. Also, it provides manganese, potassium, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Now, the only question that might be on your mind is what the eggplant is, its history, and is it safe for everyone. Let’s find out!
|Botanical Name||Solanum Melongena|
|Plant Type||Perennial But More Commonly Grown As An Annual|
|Size (Fully Grown)||About 1 To 8 Feet Tall (About 0,30 To 2,44 Meters)|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun (The More Sun The Better)|
|Soil Type||Prefers Fertile And Well-draining Sandy Loam|
|Soil pH||From 5.5 To 7.2|
|Flower Color||White Or Purple|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, And 10|
|Native Area||Southeast Asia|
How Many Eggplant Varieties Are There?
Many regions worldwide provide perfect conditions to grow eggplant, which also enabled its worldwide spread. Several nations use it as a vegetable in their kitchens, so we are fortunate to have many varieties. Below are the most popular ones, which include:
Dark Purple & Black Varieties
- Black Egg
- Finger Fruit
- Shoya Long
- Kurume Long
- Orient Express
Bright Purple Varieties
- Purple Shine
- Purple Comet
- Ping Tung Long
- Japanese Pickling
Pink & Lavender Varieties
- Long Asian
- Orient Charm
- Green knight
- Thai long green
- Bangladeshi Long
Where Did Eggplant Come From?
In Sanskrit literature, and with literature, we refer to the first mention; it’s believed that eggplant is from the third century AD, but a potential reference may date as early as 300 BC. There are also a couple of mentions in Chinese literature. These are texts where the oldest one is known as Tong Yue, written by Wang Bao in 59 BC.
Later Chinese literature shows the precise improvements in domesticated eggplants intentionally produced by Chinese agronomists: from round and small green fruits to large and long-necked purple-peeled fruits.
The improvements in shape and size of them are recorded by illustrations in Chinese botanical references dating from the 7-19th centuries AD. Interestingly, we can also notice that the Chinese also tried to improve the flavor of them. This is the part where the Chinese botanists attempted to remove the bitter taste of this fruit.
The Chinese weren’t the only ones who had a part in eggplant history. This is because Arabic merchants probably brought them to the awareness of the Middle East, Africa, and the West through the silk road.
The eggplant was probably first used for medicinal purposes rather than culinary purposes. And even after centuries of domestication experiments, its flesh still has that bitter after-taste if it isn’t treated correctly.
Then game the cultivation that increased the size and weight of them. This even changed the prickliness, taste, and color of its flesh and peel. The earliest grown eggplants were small, round, green fruits that the Chinese mentioned in their records. That’s a lot different from today’s purple, white, and also green cultivars.
How To Recognize Eggplant?
While some varieties may have striped, light purple, or white flesh, most eggplants still have a skin color that is deep purple, which is also the easiest way to recognize it. In general, they are white or cream-colored from the inside, with, of course, seeds inside of them.
Eggplant is a tropical, herbaceous, perennial plant that is surprisingly closely related to tomatoes, which we grow for their edible berries. Yes, you heard that right, berries! The plant has branching stems that are simple, long, and flat. Then there are the actual green leaves that are arranged alternately on the branches.
With a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens, the flowers have a color that is white to purple.
As we talked about earlier, even though some varieties may have striped, light purple, or white flesh, most varieties will have a deep purple skin.
To let you know more about the differences between different types, the big, dark-colored, and teardrop-shaped ones are globe eggplants. Then there are the long, slender, and thin-skinned types, which are Italian and Asian eggplants.
Ok, now that you can recognize eggplant, let’s lighten up the mood with a little joke:
How To Take Care Of Eggplants?
Most eggplant varieties grow well if the climate is hot—an environment where there are five months or even more of warmth is excellent. But growing it successfully requires a bit more than just a warm growth spot. Let’s find out what!
What Temperature Can Eggplant Tolerate?
One of the most important things is to ensure that your eggplants get 100 to 140 warm days where the temperatures stay consistently between 70 and 90°F (about 21 to 32°C).
But there is also a catch. If the temperature rises above 95°F (approximately 35°C), it stops fruiting and may even drop its flowers. Remember that the temp can’t get too low either (somewhere around 60°F, which is 15,5°C) because this might result in a lower yield.
Soil And Sun
When it comes to soil, eggplants love to grow in one that drains well, is nutritious, has a pH between 5.5 and 7.2, and the soil type is preferably a sandy loam. Let’s not forget that it would be an excellent thing if the soil contains a lot of organic matter, but if it doesn’t, add some high-quality compost to it.
As we know by far, eggplants love to grow in a warm, sunny spot, ensure that they get at least six hours of sunlight per day. So, if you read between the lines, this means that the plant won’t thrive in a shady place.
Water And Fertilizer
During the growing season, eggplants need about 1 inch (approximately 2,5 cm) of water a week. But as you might expect, you can increase your watering plan when there is a long warm and dry period.
An excellent way to know if the plant needs watering is to touch the ground directly. But if you own a moisture meter, it can also be a helpful tool to be entirely sure.
Because eggplant needs a lot of nutrients, you need to feed it well. One way to do this is by mixing plenty of high-quality compost into the soil. You can also spread some slow-release fertilizer around the plant to ensure it gets nutrients throughout the growing season.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Eggplants?
Eggplant, an excellent plant that is high in fiber plus other nutrients, but at the same time, low in calories, has many potential health benefits. But is the plant safe for everyone, for example, pregnant women? It’s time to find out!
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
As you know, there is no problem in eating most veggies during pregnancy, which applies to eggplant. But remember to eat them in moderation.
If you want your kid to fall in love with this plant, the best time to introduce them is when your children are at least 8 to 10 months old. But even though they are a healthy plant, the reason why I tell you to give them to your kids once their 8 to 10 months old is because some of them have a bitter flavor, and that can disturb the lining of your baby’s stomach.
People With Allergies
The plant contains a compound called salicylate, which is an ingredient in aspirin. This also means that people with an aspirin allergy or salicylate sensitivity can also be allergic to eggplant.
If you are allergic to eggplant, you will usually notice it within minutes of consuming the fruit. But there can even be people who may detect symptoms after a few hours after eating them.
Some of the symptoms you may face include hives, itchy lips, coughing, and even vomiting, to name a few.
People With Diabetes
Fortunately, people with diabetes can eat eggplant as it has a low glycemic index and, compared to other carb-rich foods, and best of all, it doesn’t increase your blood sugar levels that much.
Luckily, eggplant is an entirely safe for household pets. So, even though your pets may eat raw eggplant, they may not enjoy its bitter flavor.
Featured image credit – © Africa Studio – stock.adobe.com