Eggplant — 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 southern India and Sri Lanka. It is a short-lived perennial plant 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 contains numerous small, soft seeds, which are edible.
The most widely grown cultivated varieties (cultivars) in Europe and North America today are elongated ovoid, 12-25 cm long (4 1/2 to 9 in) and 6-9 cm broad (2 to 4 in) with a dark purple skin. A much wider range of shapes, sizes and colors is grown in India and elsewhere in Asia. Larger varieties weighing up to a kilogram 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’, ‘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 eggplant grown in the village of Matti in the Udupi district of India; it is light green in color and round in shape. Some brinjals of this variety weigh more than one kilogram.