Eggplant (Solanum melongena).
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The eggplant, aubergine, or brinjal (Solanum melongena) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus Solanum. It bears a fruit of the same name, commonly used as a vegetable in cooking. As a night-shade, it is closely related to the tomato and potato and is native to India and Sri Lanka.
It is a delicate perennial often cultivated as an annual. It grows 40 to 150 cm (16 to 57 in) tall, with large coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm (4-8 in) long and 5 to 10 cm (2-4 in) broad. (Semi-)wild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm (7 ft) with large leaves over 30 cm (12 in) long and 15 cm (6 in) broad. The stem is often spiny. The flowers are white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The fruit is fleshy, less than 3 cm in diameter on wild plants, but much larger in cultivated forms.
The fruit is botanically classified as a berry, and contains numerous small, soft seeds, which are edible, but are bitter because they contain (an insignificant amount of) nicotinoid alkaloids, unsurprising in a close relative of tobacco.
Eggplant is native to India. It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory but appears to have become known to the Western world no earlier than ca. 1500 CE. The first known written record of the eggplant is found in Qí mín yào shù, an ancient Chinese agricultural treatise completed in 544 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 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 developed in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada because the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen's eggs. The name aubergine in British English developed from the French aubergine (as derived from Catalan albergínia, from Arabic al-badinjan, from Persian badin-gan, from Sanskrit vatin-ganah). In Indian and South African English, the fruit is known as a "brinjal." Aubergine and brinjal, with their distinctive br-jn or brn-jl aspects, derive from Arabic and Sanskrit. In the caribbean Trinidad, it also goes by the Latin derivative "melongen".
Because of the eggplant's relationship with the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, it was at one time believed to be poisonous. While it can be eaten by most people without ill effect, for some, consuming eggplant as well as other edible nightshade plants (tomato, potato, and capsicum/peppers) can be harmful. Some eggplants are bitter, and can irritate the stomach lining, causing gastritis. Some sources, particularly in the natural health community, state that nightshades, including eggplant, can cause or significantly worsen arthritis and should be avoided by those sensitive to them.
Different varieties of eggplant produce fruit of different size, shape and color, especially purple, green, or white.
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 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, from white at the stem to bright pink to deep purple or even black. Green or purple cultivars with white striping also exist. Chinese eggplants are commonly shaped like a narrower, slightly pendulous cucumber, and sometimes were called Japanese eggplants in North America.
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', 'Ichiban', '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'. In some parts of India, miniature varieties of eggplants (most commonly called Vengan) are popular.
The raw fruit can have a somewhat bitter taste, but becomes tender when cooked and develops a rich, complex flavor. Salting and then rinsing the sliced eggplant (known as "degorging") can soften and remove much of the bitterness. Some modern varieties do not need this treatment, as they are less bitter. The eggplant is capable of absorbing large amounts of cooking fats and sauces, allowing for very rich dishes, but the salting process will reduce the amount of oil absorbed. 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 stewed, as in the French ratatouille, the Italian melanzane alla parmigiana, the Greek moussaka, and Middle-Eastern and 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 such as lemon, tahini, and garlic, as in the Middle Eastern dish baba ghanoush and the similar Greek dish melitzanosalata or the Indian dishes of Baigan Bhartha or Gojju. It can be sliced, battered, and deep-fried, then served with various sauces which may be based on yoghurt, tahini, or tamarind. Grilled and mashed eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, and spices makes the Indian dish baingan ka bhartha. 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 Indian cuisine, for example in sambhar, chutney, curries, and achaar. Owing to its versatile nature and wide use in both everyday and festive Indian food, it is often described (under the name brinjal) as the 'King of Vegetables'. In one dish, Brinjal is stuffed with ground coconut, peanuts, and masala and then cooked in oil.
Many pests and diseases which afflict other solanaceous vegetables, such as tomato, pepper (capsicum), and potato, 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 thuringiensis (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 is Verticillium.
Spacing should be 45 cm (18 in) to 60 cm (24 in) between plants, depending on cultivar, and 60 cm to 90 cm (24 to 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.
According to the USDA, production of eggplant is highly concentrated, with 93 percent of output coming from seven countries. China is the top producer(55% of world output) and India is second (28%); Egypt, Turkey, and Japan round out the top producing nations. United States is the 20th largest producer. More than 4 million acres (16,000 km²) are devoted to the cultivation of eggplant in the world.
|Top Ten Eggplant Producers — 2005|
|Country||Production (Int $1000)||Footnote||Production (MT)||Footnote|
|No symbol = official figure,F = FAO estimate, * = Unofficial figure, C = Calculated figure;|
Production in Int $1000 have been calculated based on 1999-2001 international prices
Source: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Devision
Studies of the Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, Brazil (Instituto de Biociências of the UNESP de Botucatu, São Paulo) showed that eggplant is effective in the treatment of high blood cholesterol hypercholesterolemia.
Eggplant is richer in nicotine than any other edible plant, with a concentration of 100 ng/g (or 0.01mg/100g). However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to passive smoking. On average, 20lbs of eggplant contains about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.
An inordinate 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.
The eggplant has a long history of taxonomic confusion with the Scarlet and Ethiopian eggplants, known as gilo and nakati 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.
Like the potato and Solanum lichtensteinii – but unlike the tomato which back 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 varieties aculeatum, inerme and subinerme at that time. Similarly, H.C.F. Schuhmacher & 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, that of Blanco to S. lasiocarpum.
EGGPLANT PACKS A PUNCH THEY'RE IN SEASON, CHEAP AND READY TO BE EATEN.(Living Today)(Recipe)(Correction notice)
Sep 06, 1988; Byline: Ann Burckhardt Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune Mideast lore has it that a certain imam (Muslim priest) sniffed a plate...