African Eggplant is sometimes called “bitter tomato”. It gives very typical fruits, generally flattened and deeply ribbed. It can be grown all year round but results are better during cool and dry season.
About 500 years ago, British traders introduced the African Eggplant, a fruit they had encountered along the coast of West Africa to Britain. These fruits were whitish, with a green hue, shaped like eggs, with a slightly bitter taste and spongy texture.
Around the same time, a purple-hued, oblong-shaped eggplant was making its debut in British cuisine. Although physically different, the African eggplant and the Eggplant or Aubergine are closely related members of the same specie.
The African Eggplant goes by many names: Garden eggs, mock tomato, scarlet eggplant, Ethiopian eggplant, African bitter pea-aubergine, wild pea-aubergine, wild African aubergine, tomato-fruited eggplant, Ethiopian nightshade, scarlet eggplant, bitter tomato (En); aubergine africaine, aubergine écarlate, tomate amère, djakattou (Fr); nakati etíope, berenjena escarlata (Sp).
The African Eggplant has been domesticated and are grown predominantly in Africa and are important especially in Central and West Africa. Throughout Africa, garden eggs are very popular and play an important part in many diets. They have a long storage life (up to three months) and transport well.
In rural districts across the length and breadth of Africa, it is commonplace to see women with large baskets of garden eggs on their heads for sale. The crop is mostly grown, harvested, and marketed close to home, and it forms a crucial part of both the rural economy and the female existence.
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Some of the varieties of African Egg Plant includes:
- Keur M’Bir N’Dao:
Keur M’Bir N’Dao gives attractive large fruits, deeply ribbed and flattened. As other African eggplants varieties, it is normally harvested before maturity for example when fruits are light green.
It’s maturity period is between 65 days to 75 days and the plant maintains a medium hairy leaves with a very flattened deeply ribbed shape. The color appears light green while the size of the fruit can be as big as 100grams (Diameter = 10cm) with a bitter taste and is popular in places like Senegal.
N’Drowa is a very popular variety in Ivory Coast and countries where sweet taste is required. Excellent fruit setting assuring high yield.
It’s maturity period is usually between 60 days to 70 days and the plant maintains a very vigorous smooth leaves with a flattened slightly ribbed shape. The color appears yellowish green while the size of the fruit can be as medium sized as 70grams (Diameter = 6cm) with a sweet taste and is popular in Ivory Coast and they are Tolerant to aphids.
Other African Eggplant varieties include:
The scarlet (S. aethiopicum L.) and Gboma (S. macrocarpon L.) eggplants are two cultivated eggplants, which are popular traditional vegetables in tropical Africa. Both species are grown for their leaves and fruits.
The fruits are consumed fresh as well as boiled, steamed, pickled, or in stews with other vegetables or meats, while young leaves are often used in soups and with other vegetables.
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Based on usage, S. aethiopicum is classified into four groups. The Gilo group has edible fruit of many shapes (depressed spherical to elliptic in outline) and sizes (2-8 cm across). The Shum group is a short much-branched plant with small hairless leaves and shoots that are plucked frequently as a leafy green. However, the small (1.5 cm across) very bitter fruit is not eaten.
The Kumba group has a stout main stem with large hairless leaves that can be picked as a green vegetable, and later produces very large (5-10 cm across) grooved fruit that is picked green or even red. The Aculeatum group produces flat-shaped fruit.
|Variety||Maturity (Days)||Plant||Fruit||Remarks and Tolerance/
|N’Galam||65/70||Vigorous Rather smooth leaves||Flattened Slightly ribbed||Pale green||Big (120-
150grams) Diameter = 10-11cm
|Bitter||Can be used
for export markets
and Tolerant to
|Soxna||60/70||Medium Hairy leaves||Flattened Ribbed||Green||Medium (70-
80grams) Diameter = 7-8cm
|Bitter||Popular in Senegal|
|Meketan||70||Vigorous and smooth leaves||Flattened and ribbed||Ivory white||200g||Very slightly bitter|
|N’Goyo||75-80||Vigorous and smooth leaves||Flattened and ribbed||Dark green||140||Very bitter|
Health Values of African Eggplant
Beta-carotene: extremely high in leaves, low in fruit; vitamin E: low in fruit; riboflavin: low in leaves and fruit; folic acid: low in fruit; ascorbic acid: high in leaves, low in fruit; calcium: extremely high in leaves, low in fruit; iron: high in leaves, low in fruit; protein: 4.8% in leaves, 1.0% in fruit.
Leaves contain alkaloids, which possess anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, and oxalic acid. The bitter taste in leaves is attributed to furostanol glycosides (saponins).
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Nutritionally, the African Eggplant shares the nutritional profile of the Eggplant or the Aubergine. Consisting of 92% water, the African eggplant is every dieter’s dream because it is low in calories and high in dietary fibre.
100g of the African Eggplant contains 32 calories, 1.5g of protein and 7g f carbohydrates. The seeds scattered in the eggplant contain beta-carotene, Vitamin C and other nutrients.
Typically in Africa, the garden egg is mostly consumed raw, as a snack, or it is chopped, and cooked in stews and sauces. Although bitter taste is a major characteristic, many African eggplants are bland. When cooked, it is favoured as a meat substitute because its spongy texture easily absorbs other flavours readily.
Although the African Eggplant is available all year round, they are mainly in season between the months of March and October.
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