EGGPLANT (Solanum melongena) is member of Solanacea family. Eggplant is one of the important solanaceous crops that are widely grown in tropics and subtropics. Solanum melongena is a species of nightshade grown for its edible fruit. It has several common names; in American and Canadian English it is called eggplant, in British English it is called as aubergine. It is known in South Asia, Southeast Asia and South Africa as brinjal. Other common names are melongene, garden egg, or guinea squash.
The ancient ancestors of eggplant grew wild in India and were first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C. Eggplant was introduced to Africa before the middle ages and then into Italy, the country with which it has long been associated, in the 14th century. It subsequently spread throughout Europe and the Middle East and, centuries later; it was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers. Today, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, China, and Japan are the leading growers of eggplant.
Although, it has a long and rich history, eggplant did not always hold the revered place in food culture that it does today, especially in European cuisines. As a result of the overly bitter taste of the early varieties, it seems that people also felt that it had a bitter disposition. Eggplant held the undeserved and inauspicious reputation of being able to cause insanity, leprosy and cancer. It an important solanaceous vegetable crop in sub-tropics and tropics. It is extensively grown in India, Pakistan, China, Philippines, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Italy, Middle East, Far East and U.S.A.
Eggplant fruit is large, gord shaped berry. It can be an assortment of color, like dark purple, red, white and even yellow. Eggplant is grown throughout the world and it is moderately sensitive to salinity. Like other agricultural crops, its growth, development, and performance are badly affected under saline conditions. Salinity stress imposed at an early stage, severely limits the yield of eggplant.
In 2012, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO), production of eggplant was highly concentrated with 90% of output coming from five countries. China is top producer of eggplant with 58% of worlds production and India is second producer with 25% of worlds production of eggplant, followed by Iran, Egypt and Turkey.
Long prized for its deeply purple, glossy beauty as well as its unique taste and texture, eggplants are now available in markets throughout the year, but they are at their very best from August through October when they are in season. Among all the summer vegetables with semi-perennial nature, eggplant is available throughout the year and is consumed by all class of people. It is very important vegetable and is common throughout the country. It is very different vegetable crop that is adapted to different agro climatic regions and can grow through the year. Different cultivars of eggplant have emerged.
It is grown to use as cooked vegetable as it is purely culinary. It contains proteins (1.2%), vitamin C (5mg/100g). It is very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, manganese, copper, thiamin, vitamin B1. The nutritive value of eggplant per 100g is carbohydrates 5.1g, protein 1g, total fats 0.1g, cholesterol 0g, dietry fiber 3.40g, folates 22 µg, niacin 0.649g, pantothenic acid 0.281mg, pyridoxine 0.084mg, riboflavin 0.037mg, thiamin 0.039mg.
In addition to featuring a host of vitamins and minerals, eggplant also contains important phytonutrients, many which have antioxidant activity. Phytonutrients contained in eggplant include phenolic compounds, such caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, such as nasunin.
Research on eggplant has focused on an anthocyanin phytonutrient found in eggplant skin called Nasunin. Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage. In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform. Researchers at the US Agricultural Service in Beltsville, Maryland, have found that eggplants are rich sources of phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants.
Eggplant is amongst small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating eggplant.