Know your eggplants

Readers please note 


While this series of articles is in construction some tiny versions of the eventual photos will be seen in the relevant places, even before we are authorized to publish them. We are in the process of contacting every copyright owner. Should any one feel offended by this process we apologize and will remove any picture that we are specifically told to remove PROMPTLY. We hope to raise the interest level of all people contacted by having these tiny gifs there as appetizers. We certainly are not in the business of exploiting or taking advantage of anyone. Education is our game and not only does it not pay but it costs us far too much. We in turn do not feel exploited however for we find it too hard to stop our compulsive urge to educate. Moreover we learn as much as our readers in the process, so perhaps we are just selfish and trying to satisfy a deep need. Hum! a psych. thesis in perspective.

Overall Disclaimer The information in these articles is offered in good faith, without warranty. Although the compiling has been done with extreme care it is not possible to warranty the accuracy of all the data. It is meant to be used with a fair degree of common sense and logic. Neither the author Michel H. Porcher, nor any publisher of this article will have any liability whatsoever to any person or organisation in respect to any alleged loss, damage or liability incurred from the use of the information presented.
Opinions expressed on these pages are the author's own and do not represent the views of the The University of Melbourne, the I.S.T.A, USDA - ARS - GRIN or their respective staff, neither is it meant to represent or support any view expressed elsewhere by all the authors quoted, the companies and organizations referred to.



African eggplants (Pt1)
The Gilo Group

The Kumba Group
The Shum Group
The Aculeatum Group

Solanum anguivi Lam.

Solanum macrocarpon L.

Asian eggplants (Pt2)

Solanum melongena L.
Solanum torvum Sw.
Solanum ferox L.

European eggplants (Pt3)


Bilingual lexiques

African - English
Malay - English
Thai - English

Cultivar descriptions and seed sources tables

African  eggplants
Asian eggplants

European eggplants

References for all pages


This series of articles entitled "Know your …" is born out of my frustrations of the last 2 decades during my work on the MMPND, when I observed the demarcation between the world of taxonomy on one hand and what I call the trade on the other, that is the seed industry, the nursery industry, and all their associated professionals as well as gardeners, farmers, cooks and chefs. The two groups tend to ignore each other as if they belonged to two different worlds. It has been slowly changing in the last 4 or 5 years and hopefully, starting with these articles on eggplants I will stimulate a few more people towards more cooperation. I must have been very inspired when I got involved with flickr because I can see the tremendous potential of all these photographers craving for recognition. I know also that academics in general, taxonomists in particular are always short of nice photos to illustrate their work. Here is a match if ever I saw one. So I am showing the way. I am also attempting to involve seed companies a second time, this time with a lot of "baggage". The first time, back in the mid eighties when I really began the MMPND project, I was not very successful because I could not explain clearly enough what I wanted to achieve and I was looked upon as a threat (as the late Georges Brassens would have put it "un empêcheur de tourner enrond") more than a well intentioned fool… well! I was told far too often "Who in his right mind would attempt such a project". Well folks this is it, this is the beginning of the crowning of the project, these articles reflect what I wanted to achieve. It appears that I was alone in understanding the amount of work that had to be invested and I was pretty much the only person willing and able to spend the time doing the task. I probably won't live long enough to cover all the main crops but I'll give it a darn good go starting with our beloved eggplants.



Since its importation many decades ago  (18th century?) the eggplant, as we know it in the west has mostly been a food plant producing the vital ingredient to many traditional and regional dishes such as the Greek Moussaka. In the garden it is a plant with simply huge dark boring uninspiring fruits. In its original imported state (from India and other exotic places) it had a fruit that was truly egg-shaped, hence its English name, translated in French by "La plante aux oeufs" in the great catalogues of the past. There is a little disagreement on the colour of it but whether it was white, black or anything in between,  like many of its cousins the tomato or the nightshades, it was a curiosity, an ornament in the garden with suspected poisonous overtones in those times. In recent decades, following worldwide searches in the centres of diversity a tremendous number of new varieties and species have been uncovered and exploited by the seed industry. Unfortunately the horticultural industry the market gardeners and the providers of this vegetable have not taken advantage of this diversity pretexting a lack of interest by their customers. Although this is true to a certain extant, it is also a fact that if a corporation wishes to impose a new taste on the unsuspecting public a few good ads strategically placed can work wonders. It has been left to gardeners however to do the promotion of exciting varieties of eggplants. These articles are simply part of this worldwide movement, the push for diversity in our food plants. How does that fit into the loss of bio-diversity debate? In order to answer this question we first have to look at the science of plant classification and its shortcomings.

A little taxonomy

Please note that I have taken the habit of writing the significant botanical Latin words which should be by convention in italic, in bold. It began this practice with the original publishing of the MMPND for online for screen effect. Today as we update our files we try to combine both.) 

Based on these references only:
#  Flora Europaea: Database of European Plants (ESFEDS)
# Solanaceae Source: A global taxonomic resource for the nightshade family
# Mansfeld: Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops
# PROTABASE: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa's (PROTA's) online resource

Solanum melongena L.  (Correctly written specific name)
Solanum melongena L. subsp. agreste Dikii (Correctly written subspecific name)
Solanum melongena L. var. cylindricum Dikii (Correctly written varietal name)
Solanum melongena L. var. esculentum (Dunal) Walp. (Correctly written varietal name but outdated for cultivated eggplants. It has a synonym value)
Solanum melongena L. var. giganteum (Alef.) Dikii  (Correct as a synonym)
Solanum melongena L. var. ovigera Pers. (Correct as a synonym)
Solanum melongena L. var. violaceum (Alef.) Dikii (Correct as a synonym)
Solanum melongena L. var. viride Dikii (Correct as a synonym)

The above names albeit botanically correct do not match the standards which are meant to be used for cultivated plants. The denomination "var. for variety" should only be used for wild plants. It is a level of classification used in taxonomy and should not be confused with a variety in common language to designate a cultivated variety or a cultivar in taxonomy. A cultivar is indicated by single quotation marks (ex: 'Gretel'). In turn a cultivar name which as a formal status is different from a commonly given name such as "Thai round green eggplant". These names often begin their life as literal translations, especially when dealing with scripted names, and are taken advantage of for commercial reasons.  The groups as in (Group name) are collections of cultivars.
The above names including "var." should be considered as synonyms (from an older system) of the names included in modern nomenclature such as those using the "Group name" appellation.
Simple example:
Solanum melongena L. (Cylindricum Group)
Synonym: Solanum melongena L. var. cylindricum Dikii
This group will include all cultivars with cylindrical fruits.
We have a varietal name from the old system - a synonym of the name from the new system.
The universal name used in all catalogues for eggplants is Solanum melongena L. Flora Europea gives 2 synonyms for this: Solanum ovigerum Dunal & Solanum esculentum Dunal. Strictly speaking the later is a "basionym" the other a synonym of a different group Solanum melongena L. (Ovigerum Group) .
In the literature we are often told that Solanum integrifolium is a synonym of  Solanum aethiopicum. It is not strictly correct.
Solanum integrifolium Poiret  is a synonym of Solanum aethiopicum L. (Aculeatum Group) but neither a synonym of the Kumba Group nor the Gilo Group etc. Similarly  Solanum dasyphyllum Thonn. ex Schum. is a synonym of  Solanum macrocarpon Poir. (Semi wild Group) but neither a synonym of the Mokono Group nor the Nabingo Group etc.

Finally a more complexe example: Solanum indicum L.

Solanum indicum auct. = Solanum anguivi Lam. (Accepted name)

Solanum indicum L. = Solanum violaceum Ortega (Accepted name)

Solanum indicum L. = Solanum lasiocarpum Dunal (Accepted name)

Solanum indicum Roxb. = Solanum violaceum Ortega (Accepted name)

Solanum ferox auct. = Solanum lasiocarpum Dunal (Accepted name)

Solanum ferox auct. = Solanum indicum L. = Solanum violaceum Ortega (Accepted name)

Solanum ferox Burm. f. = Solanum ferox L. ?

Solanum ferox Jungh. Ex Miq. = Solanum violaceum Ortega (Accepted name)

Solanum ferox L. (Accepted name)

Solanum ferox Mill. Ex Dunal. = Solanum tomentosum L. (Accepted name)

Solanum indicum L. =  "nom. rej., a rejected name (nomen utique rejiciendum) under Vienna ICBN Art. 56 & App. V that is unavailable for use." (USDA-ARS GRIN).


So following a considerable researching time one finds all these synonyms. No wonder that the name Solanum indicum L. has been declared "unusable" or words to that effect. The point is that unless one adds the authority names at the end of either Solanum ferox or Solanum indicum one is never sure which species is taken into consideration for whatever work, mine happens to be translation. Many dictionaries will associate common names to any of those botanical names without precisely pinpointing what it is. It is likely that the lexicographers of the past would not have been aware of the taxonomic intricacies so they cannot really be blamed for the numerous mistakes and omissions found in the dictionaries. Today however computers and the internet allow us to be far more aware and accurate … and less blameless.

Practical considerations


Generally speaking in terms of bio-diversity the species is the unit that is counted when assessing the losses. A specific (species) name is made up of two words (a binomial) a generic (genus) name and a specific epithet. Normally it should also have the abbreviated version of an authoritative expert's name - a taxonomist (a botanist specialised in plant classification). Already there are problems with this.

1. When it comes to food plant diversity at the specific level we only consider the "tip of the iceberg" because if a species is lost all the subspecies, the varieties, the forms, the hundreds of cultivars (cultivated varieties) and their regional selections (as well as other types of selections - usually simply market driven) are lost. In other words 1 loss can in reality be say 20 000 and this would not be an overstatement in many cases. This may not be called "plant bio-diversity" but it is a loss of diversity nevertheless. What is lost is the patient work of selection by generations of gardeners and farmers from every corner of the globe. The "new world order" can be both an accelerator of the problem via the concentration of the heritage in a few "corporations hands" (thanks to governments) or part of the solution via the inter-connected networks of seed savers, the slow food movement, the revival of regional cooking and related terroirs, etc. This however is increasingly under threat due to various laws related to "official lists", quarantine restrictions, patenting, and business laws.

2. Because the authority name is almost always omitted in horticultural debates it leads to grave mistakes of identification. As demonstrated above Solanum indicum is a perfect example of how this process can get totally out of control.

Let us now consider the state of eggplants.Almost in great shape compared to some other food plants.

To those of us living with plants it is always a source of amazement that eggplants are so little known. Asian and African consumers know theirs well but are less familiar with the Asian or Western types. Westerners are equally ignorant of the richness found in Asia and Africa. It is even arguable that they are not aware of the rich diversity available within the most popular species Solanum melongena L.  that could be available on the market place.

This is understandable because apart from the large purple fruit that everyone knows, very little else is seen in market stalls or on the supermarket shelves. This is not confined to eggplants, it applies to every crop grown and distributed via the market place which, despite the "global village" and the "global market" concepts, remains a market of rather narrow minded traders and consumers. This may be enough to meet the needs of the best known recipes  of the Western world such as the Greek “moussaka”, , the French “ratatouille”, the Sicilian “caponata”, the Middle Eastern “baba ghanoush” and “imam bayaldi” But what if one wants to cook the dish from Cameroun “nkwi” or a “แกงเขียวหวานไก่” Gaeng kĭeow wăan gài (Thai green chicken curry) calling for pea eggplants (European green peas not being an option), the Indian dish धूम्रपान बैंगन करी  Baingan ka bharta, the Caucasian Nigvziani badrijani (walnut-flavoured eggplants), the Chinese dish  釀茄子(stuffed eggplants), or even the regional Italian "Fusilli al filetto di melanzana rossa e Caciocavallo Podolico" and "Frittelle di foglie di melanzana rossa" both calling for 'Melanzana Rossa di Rotonda' which is a direct descendant of the African red eggplants?

Some seed companies go to great lengths to make available to their customers a wide range of cultivars (cultivated varieties), but unless people grow the plants, they are not likely to come across some of the most beautiful eggplants available on this planet.

So let us see if we can enthuse some of our readers for some lesser known treasures of the eggplant world.




This brilliant display encompasses most of the shapes and colours (but not all) available in the world. The species and mostly the cultivar names will vary greatly in the market place but the basic array will be found. These fruits from open-pollinated varieties were all grown by David during his gardening days with the Seed Savers Exchange USA. Most are still preserved and offered by this organization. It is also possible to find seeds of hybrid forms of all these. We are not fans of hybrids but during a lack of O.P. cultivars they can fulfil a need. They can also be useful if they have been bred to resist specific climatic conditions or some diseases. We do not see the need at all for genetically modified varieties however. Who would, given the broad spectrum covered in this article? It would take the average gardener a lifetime to grow and cook them all in the various ways they are meant to be prepared. The Tomato Growers Seed Supply Company offers probably the widest range of cultivars (mostly the hybrid forms) available in the world from a single source via a beautiful gallery with high quality photos (check the large sizes).

The main difference between the western types of eggplants and the African or Asian is that the first are well and truly domesticated, some would argue too much manipulated and hybridised if not yet genetically manipulated. The Asian and African eggplants are much less domesticated for the most part and are either close to their wild relatives or just plain wild plants such as the pea eggplant from Uganda or the hairy-fruited pea eggplant from Thailand.




We have done our best trying to identify every cultivar mentioned. If we have made mistakes please tell us. We have not discriminated between so called organic source of seeds and others in order to offer the broad spectrum of what is available in the world. Again if me missed something please tell us, we will update this table promptly. Send mail to







The vernacular / common names below are most unreliable. They are given here to give hints on "what it could be" but not "what it is". The purpose of the MMPND is actually to sort the valid names from the others, a process that will go on until 2020 and most likely beyond.


A mini lexique of  African names

Djakattou = French rendering of Western African name for African eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. (Kumba Group))

Djakhattou = French rendering of Western African name for African eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. (Kumba Group))

Enjagi (Uganda) = Bitter berries ((Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. (Gilo Group))

Entula enganda (Uganda) = Bitter berries ((Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. (Gilo Group))

Entura (Uganda) = Bitter berries ((Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. (Gilo Group))

Gboma = applied to either Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. or Solanaceous  macrocarpon Poir.

Jagi (Uganda) = Bitter berries ((Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. (Gilo Group))

Jakhatou  = French rendering of Western African name for African eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L. (Kumba Group))

Jagatú tunga = Portuguese rendering of African name for African eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L.)

Nakasuga (Uganda) = Leaves of scarlet eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L.)

Nakati (Uganda) = Leaves of scarlet eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L.)

Nakati nume y'akyalo (Uganda) = (Solanaceous  macrocarpon Poir.)

Ngogwe (Swahili)  = African eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L.)

Nyanya chungu (Swahili)  = African eggplant (Solanaceous  aethiopicum L.)

Vergans (Uganda) = (Solanaceous  macrocarpon Poir.)


Suggestions, corrections, additions welcome.


A mini lexique of  Malay names

Tarong pasai (Brunei) = Solanum ferox L. (also applied to Solanum lasiocarpum Dunal - syn of S. ferox auct. non L.)

Terung asam =  Sour eggplant (Solanum melongena L. and Solanum ferox L.)

Terung Bulat  =  Round Asian eggplant (Solanum melongena L.)

Terong cepoka. = Solanum torvum Sw.

Terung dayak = Solanum ferox L.

Terong engkol =  Solanum macrocarpon

Terong gayung (Sundanese) = Solanum macrocarpon

Terong hijau =  Green eggplant  (Solanum melongena L.)

Terung hitam =  Dark-purple eggplant  (Solanum melongena L.)

Terong iban = Solanum ferox L.

Terong kelapa = Solanum macrocarpon

Terung Panjang =  Long Chinese eggplant  (Solanum melongena L.)

Terung Pendek  = Japanese egglant

Terong perat = Solanum ferox L. (also applied to Solanum americanum L.)

Terong pipit (Sumatra) = Solanum torvum Sw. (also applied to S. violaceum)

Terung putih =  Small white eggplant

Terong rapoh  =  Solanum macrocarpon

Terong rembang  =  Solanum macrocarpon

Terong santan  =  Solanum macrocarpon

Terung Siam = Thai eggplant, Kermit eggplant   (Solanum melongena L.)

Terung ungu =  Violet eggplant.



Suggestions, corrections, additions welcome.


A not so mini lexique of  Thai names

Including other species fron the genus Solanum. These may not cross-fertilise with the eggplants but they may well be susceptible to the same diseases. For example the tobacco virus can be transmitted on to eggplants by smoking gardeners.


มะปู่  Ma bpoo = Solanum ferox L. (Sinkade Group )

มะแขว้ง   Ma kae  ->   Solanum torvum Sw.

มะแขว้งขม   Ma kae kom    ->    Solanum sanitwongsei Craib (bitter)

มะแขว้งขม  Ma kae kom    ->  Solanum violaceum Ortega (bitter)

มะแขว้งเคือ   Ma kae keuang    ->  Solanum trilobatum L.

มะเขือ  Ma khuea   ->   Solanum melongena L.

มะเขือเปราะ   Ma khuea bpror   ->  Solanum aculeatissimum Jacq.

มะเขือเปราะ   Ma khuea bpror    ->    Solanum melongena L. (round Thai eggplant, small round brinjal)

มะเขือเปราะ   Ma khuea bpror    ->       Solanum xanthocarpum Schrader et Wendl.

มะเขือต้น    Ma khuea dton   ->  Solanum wrightii Benth.

มะเขือขาว   Ma khuea khao  (Má kĕua kăao)  ->     Solanum melongena L.  (Large egg plant).

มะเขือขื่น   Ma khuea kheun     ->     Solanum melongena L. ? small round brinjal also aculeatissimum ? (bitter)

มะเขือขื่น   Ma khuea kheun   (Má kĕua kèun)   ->     Solanum xanthocarpum Schrader et Wendl.  (Yellow-berried nightshade) (bitter)

มะเขือม่วง   Ma khuea muang  ->   Solanum melongena L. (purple fruit)

มะเขือม่วงเล็ก   Ma khuea muang lek   ->  Solanum melongena L. (Small Purple Eggplant)

มะเขือหนาม   Ma khuea naam   ->  Solanum aculeatissimum Jacq.

มะเขือพวง   Ma khuea phuang    ->   Solanum torvum Sw.  (Brinjal, pea-eggplant)

มะเขือส้ม   Ma khuea som   ->   Lycepersicum esculentum Mill. (Currant tomato)

มะเขือเทศ    Ma khuea tet (Má kĕua têt)     ->  Lycepersicum esculentum Mill.

มะเขือหวาน   Ma khuea waan    ->  Solanum muricatum Ait.

มะเขือยาว  Ma khuea yao (Ma khuea yaao)  ->    Solanum melongena L. (long thin fruit)

มะอึก   Ma ûk   ->  Solanum ferox L.

มะแว้ง    Ma waeng  ->  Solanum violaceum Ortega (Solanum indicum sensu C.B. Clarke, Solanum indicum auct. non L.)

มะแว้ง    Ma waeng  ->   Solanum indicum L.  Possibly a mistake - non L. (see "A little Taxonomy" section)

มะแว้ง       Ma waeng    ->  Solanum trilobatum L.

มะแว้งต้น   Ma waeng dton   ->  Solanum sanitwongsei Craib

มะแว้งเครือ   Ma waeng khruea   ->  Solanum trilobatum L.

มะแว้งนก   Ma waeng nok   ->   Solanum americanum Mill.

มันฝรั่ง   Man farang   ->  Solanum tuberosum L.



Suggestions, corrections, additions welcome.






I wish to acknowledge the kind cooperation of many colleagues mentioned throughout this article and mostly all my flickr contacts who have provided useful comments and many of those beautiful photos. Thanks to all.





*****  This is a sign of a great reference.

Agnieszka Sękara, Stanisław Cebula, Edward Kunicki, 2007, Cultivated eggplants – origin, breeding objectives and genetic resources, a review. FOLIA HORTICULTURAE  Ann. 19/1, 2007, 97-114. Department of Vegetable Crops Agricultural University in Kraków, Poland. < cat=fh19012007  >. PDF file. *****, 2007, Multilingual List of Vegetables available in the Penang Wet Market. < >.


Bukenya, Z. R. and J. B. Hall. 1987. Six cultivars of Solanum macrocarpon (Solanaceae) in Ghana. Euphytica 17(1): 91-5.


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences - Cornell University. Interesting evaluations of most eggplants cultivars on the market by subscribers. < >.


Elizabeth Byanjeru Rubaihayo, Conservation and use of traditional vegetables in Uganda < >.


Ethiopian Plant Names < >.


Guillet Dominique, 2007, Semences de Kokopelli, 7th Edition. Edition La Voix des Semences. pp.452 - 463.


International ECPGR Eggplant Database. Botanical and Experimental Garden, Radboud University Nijmegen,  The Netherlands. EGGNET  (EGGplant genetic resources NETwork), a project funded by the European Union. The project is coordinated by Ms. Marie-Christine Daunay, Unité de génétique & amélioration des fruits et légumes, INRA, Montfavet, France. < >.


Medicinal Plants of Myanmar. < >.

M.M.P.N.D. For all nomenclatural details we refer you to our page on Eggplants.


Natural History Museum. Solanaceae Source - A global taxonomic resource for the nightshade family. < >.


PROTA < >.

The following reference pages from PROTA contain far more colour photos and details on all aspects of the species treated above. We have considered the information on these pages as our main references because they contain far more details than any other source. *****


Bukenya-Ziraba, R., 2004. Solanum anguivi Lam. [Internet] Record from Protabase. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>. Accessed 18 April 2009.


Lester, R.N. & Seck, A., 2004. Solanum aethiopicum L. [Internet] Record from Protabase. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>. Accessed 18 April 2009.


Bukenya-Ziraba, R. & Bonsu, K.O., 2004. Solanum macrocarpon L. [Internet] Record from Protabase. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>. Accessed 18 April 2009.


Schippers, R.R., 2004. Solanum torvum Sw. [Internet] Record from Protabase. Grubben, G.J.H. & Denton, O.A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. <>. Accessed 18 April 2009.




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Compiled by Michel H. Porcher 

Started 12 / 04 / 09

Updated 30 / 04 / 09