The eggplant also known as the aubergine is a suptropical plant species from the family of the Nightshades. It can be cultivated in temperate zones.
Bitter substances and solanine prevent eggplants from being eaten raw, although it is not actually poisonous, like other night shadow plants of the "old world". There are three main varieties: var. Esculentum, "Nees" with round egg-shaped fruits, var. Serpentinum, "L.H.Bailey" with long slender fruits and var. Depressum, "L.H.Bailey" with particularly small fruits.
In Europe we usually eat the eggplant club-shaped with its skin dark-violet to black. They are hard to buy fruits and run the risk of being overripe or superimposed. They can have spiny stems.
From Wikipedia: “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. It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal.
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, probably with two independent domestications, one in South Asia and one in East Asia.”
“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. 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 ... 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. ... Cooking eggplant thoroughly seems to preclude reactions in some individuals, but at least one of the allergenic proteins survives the cooking process.”
“The color of purple skin varieties is due to the anthocyanin nasunin.
The browning of eggplant flesh results from the oxidation of polyphenols, such as the most abundant phenolic compound in the fruit, chlorogenic acid.”
“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. 57% of output comes from China alone.”
“The word "eggplant" was first recorded in 1767, and was originally applied to white varieties; some 18th-century European cultivars were small, round, yellow or white, resembling goose or hen's eggs.”