A Brief Introduction
Commonly known as brinjal or an aubergine, Eggplant is an edible purple-colored fruit of the family Solanaceae. This member of the nightshade family has a shiny skin typically dark purple, but occasionally white or yellow. This egg-shaped vegetable is regarded as a satisfying substitute for meat in many countries of the world. This member of the nightshade family is closely related to the tomato and potato.

Eggplant is a warm-seasoned vegetable cultivated worldwide for its fleshy fruit. A native to India, they are quite common in almost every corner of the globe. Its Sanskrit name is vatinganah, the French and British know it as the aubergine, and the Hindi name, brinjal, is recognized in South Africa as

well. When raw, the fruit is hard, with a bitter taste. On the contrary, once cooked the fruit bears a tender texture. Popular purple-fruited varieties (cultivars) are Black Beauty and a number of hybrid varieties.

Since this plant is capable of enhancing the ambiance of a garden, it is also used for ornamental purposes. These ornamental plants bear white, brown, yellow, and green fruits and are widely used as a garden plant. China is the largest producer of eggplant in the world and contributes around 55% of the world’s output. Other major producers are India (28% of the world’s produce), Egypt, Turkey, and Japan.

Plant Description
Eggplant is a warm-seasoned crop which grows upto the height of 40 to 150 cm (16 to 57 inches). This plant of the nightshade family has large coarsely lobed leaves which are 10 to 20 cm (4-8 in) long and 5 to 10 cm (2-4 in) broad. It is a delicate perennial often cultivated as an annual. The flowers are white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens.

The large, glossy and egg-shaped fruit of the plant is fleshy, less than 3 cm in diameter on wild plants, but much larger in cultivated forms. Certain cultivars of eggplant bear larger fruits which are 2 to 12 inches in length. 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.

The scientific name Solanum melongena is derived from a 16th century Arabic term for one kind of eggplant. Interestingly, the term ‘eggplant’ was developed in USA, 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.

Brief History
A native to India and Sri Lanka, Eggplants has been widely cultivated in all temperate regions of the world. They are known to southern and eastern Asian countries since immemorial. In the sixteenth

century, Arabic traders has introduced this vegetable in the West. The first known written record of the eggplant is found in Qí mín yào shù, an ancient Chinese agricultural treatise completed in 544 CE. Today, almost all continents of the world is aware with eggplant. On a commercial scale, China currently leads the world in eggplant production, followed by India, Japan, Turkey, and Egypt.

Eggplants and Nutrition
Since eggplants contain low calorie content, they are regarded as a healthy food by many dietitians. They are also good sources of Vitamin C, potassium and calcium. One hundred grams of a raw eggplant would contain around 24 calories, while one hundred grams of boiled eggplants contain roughly 35 calories.

In one hundred grams of boiled eggplants you will also get 9 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein, zero fat, zero cholesterol and 239 milligrams of sodium.

Culinary Uses
This versatile egg-shaped berry is featured in cuisines around the world. Eggplant may be stewed with tomatoes, grilled, roasted, battered and deep-fried, or stuffed and baked. As its flesh is quite bitter in taste with an unpleasant texture, it is not eaten raw. The thin skin is also edible, so that the eggplant need not be peeled.

Eggplant is the vital element of many globally renowned dishes like the French ratatouille, the Italian melanzane alla parmigiana, and the Middle Eastern baba ghanuj. In Indian cuisines, it is used in variety of ways ranging from curries to chutneys. “Baigun Bhurta” is the most popular cuisine of India. It is used in preparing sambhar, a very popular dish of southern regions of India especially in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.