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The eggplant, or aubergine as it is called in France, or brinjal (Solanum melongena), is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus Solanum, is a vegetable long prized for its beauty as well as its unique taste and texture. It bears a fruit of the same name, commonly used as a vegetable in cooking. As a nightshade, it is closely related to the tomato and potato and is native to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.

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.

EggplantThe 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 as it is a close relative of tobacco.

The plant is native to India. It has been cultivated in southern and eastern Asia since prehistory[citation needed] but appears to have become known to the Western world no earlier than ca. 1500 CE. The first known written record of the plant 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 the 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 variety.

The name eggplant, used in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada refers to the fact that the fruits of some 18th century European cultivars were yellow or white and resembled goose or hen's eggs. In Australia, the local people believed for a brief period when the eggplant was first introduced to the country that the plant would produce hen's eggs as fruit[verification needed]. The name aubergine, which is used in British English, is an adoption from the French word (derived from Catalan albergínia, from Arabic al-baðinjān from Persian bâdenjân, from Sanskrit vātiga-gama). In Indian, South African and Malaysian English, the fruit is known as a brinjal. Aubergine and brinjal, with their distinctive br-jn or brn-jl aspects, derive from Persian and Sanskrit. In the Caribbean Trinidad, it also goes by the Latin derivative "meloongen".

EggplantBecause of the plant's relationship with the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, the fruit was at one time believed to be extremely dangerous.

Different varieties of the plant produce fruit of different size, shape and color, especially purple, green, or white. There are even orange varieties.

The most widely cultivated varieties (cultivars) in Europe and North America today are elongated ovoid, 12–25 cm wide (4 1/2 to 9 in) and 6–9 cm broad (2 to 4 in) in 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 (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 in white striping also exist. Chinese varieties are commonly shaped like a narrower, slightly pendulous cucumber, and were sometimes 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. Slim cultivars in purple-black skin include Little Fingers, Ichiban, Pingtung Long, and Tycoon; in green skin Louisiana Long Green and Thai (Long) Green; in white skin Dourga. Traditional, white-skinned, egg-shaped cultivars include Casper and Easter Egg. Bicolored cultivars with color gradient include Rosa Bianca and Violetta di Firenze. Bicolored cultivars in striping include Listada de Gandia and Udumalapet. In some parts of India, miniature varieties (most commonly called Vengan) are popular. A particular variety of green brinjal known as Matti Gulla is grown in Matti village of Udupi district in Karnataka state in India.

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 fruit (known as "degorging") can soften and remove much of the bitterness though this is often unnecessary. Some modern varieties do not need this treatment, as they are far less bitter.  The fruit 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 peeling is not required.
The plant is used in cuisines from Japan to Spain. It is often stewed, as in the French ratatouille, the Italian melanzane alla parmigiana, the Arabian 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. In Iranian cuisine, it can be blended with whey as kashk e-bademjan, tomatoes as mirza ghasemi or made into stew as khoresh-e-bademjan. It can be sliced and deep-fried, then served with plain yoghurt, (optionally) topped with a tomato and garlic sauce such as in the Turkish dish patlıcan kızartması or without yoghurt as in patlıcan şakşuka. However, arguably the most famous Turkish eggplant dish is İmam bayıldı. Eggplants can also be battered before deep-frying and served with a sauce made of tahini and tamarind. Grilled and mashed and mixed with onions, tomatoes, and spices it makes the Indian dish baingan ka bhartha. The fruit 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. It can also be found in Chinese cuisine, braised (紅燒茄子), stewed (魚香茄子) or stuffed (釀茄子).

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.

In Bangladesh, it is called Begun (বেগুন). It, along with the fish Hilsa, is used to cook a famous wedding dish[citation needed]. Slices of eggplant are marinated with salt and chilli powder, covered with a batter of bashone and deep-fried and eaten as a snack. This is called Beguni (বেগুনি).

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 is passed. Seeds are typically started eight to ten weeks prior to the anticipated frost-free date.

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. Flowers are complete, containing both female and male structures, and may be self-pollinated or cross-pollinated.

Production of eggplant is highly concentrated, with 85 percent of output coming from five countries. China is the top producer (56% of world output) and India is second (26%); Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia round out the top producing nations. More than 4 million acres (2,043,788 hectares) are devoted to the cultivation of eggplant in the world. In the United States, New Jersey is the largest producing state.

Studies of the Institute of Biology of São Paulo State University, Brazil, would have shown that eggplant is effective in the treatment of high blood cholesterol[citation needed]. Another study from Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo found no effects at all and does not recommend eggplant as a replacement to statins.

It helps to block the formation of free radicals and is also a source of folic acid and potassium.

Eggplant is richer in nicotine than any other edible plant, with a concentration of 100 ng/g (or 0.01 mg/100g). However, the amount of nicotine from eggplant or any other food is negligible compared to passive smoking. On average, 20 lbs (9 kg) of eggplant contains about the same amount of nicotine as a cigarette.

Case reports of itchy skin and/or mouth after handling and/or eating eggplant have been reported anecdotally and published in medical journals (see also oral allergy syndrome). A recent (2008) study of a sample of 741 people in India (where eggplant is commonly consumed) found that nearly 10% reported some allergic symptoms after consuming eggplant, while 1.4% showed symptoms in less than 2 hours. Contact dermatitis from eggplant leaves and allergy to eggplant flower pollen have also been reported. Individuals who are atopic (genetically predisposed to hypersensitivity, such as hayfever) are more likely to have a reaction to eggplant, which may be due to the fact that eggplant is high in histamines. A few proteins and at least one secondary metabolite have been identified as potential allergens. Cooking eggplant thoroughly seems to preclude reactions in some individuals, but at least one of the allergenic proteins survives the cooking process.



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