Friday, May 24, 2024

Different Varieties of African Eggplant and their Characteristics

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.

Common Names: African eggplant, scarlet eggplant, bitter tomato (En); aubergine africaine, aubergine écarlate, tomate amère, djakattou (Fr); nakati etíope, berenjena escarlata (Sp); 非洲紅茄 (Cn)

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.

Read Also: Clean your Kidney now with Garden Egg Leaves


Different Varieties of African Eggplant and their Characteristics

African eggplants can be found in an assortment of sizes from a small, round egg shape to a depressed globular, pumpkin-like shape with deep furrows and depending on the variety; they range from 5-15 centimeters in diameter.

The outer skin is shiny and smooth and can be yellow, green, white, or red, and the inner flesh is crunchy and pale yellow or ivory. African eggplants have a distinctly bitter taste that becomes more bitter as it ripens.


African eggplants are available year-round with peak season in the late summer and fall.

Current Facts

African eggplants, botanically classified as Solanum aethiopicum, range in color and shape, depending upon the cultivar, and are divided into four groups categorized by size, shape, and method of use: Gilo, Shum, Kumba, and Aculeatum.

African eggplants are commonly known as Mock Tomato, Bitter Tomato, Ethiopian nightshade, and Scarlet Eggplant.

Nutritional Value

African eggplants contain fiber, potassium and some beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, iron, and calcium.


African eggplants can be used in both raw and cooked applications. When raw, they can be sliced and eaten fresh, pickled, pureed into juice, or dried for later use. African eggplants can also be prepared by grilling, baking, broiling, and steaming.

They are commonly stuffed or cooked in meat, vegetable, or rice dishes and can also be used as a pasta substitute. The leaves and young shoots of the African eggplant, containing most of the plant’s nutritional value, can be used in soups, stews, sautés and even pickled. The inherent bitterness of the African eggplant is complimented by sweet flavors, rich proteins, and smoked meats.

African eggplants pair well with curry or long braises in a simple blend of oil and garlic, nutty cheeses such as parmesan, meats such as ham, bacon, and sausage, caramelized onions or mushrooms, sweet potatoes, baby corn, tomatoes, red bell pepper, green beans, beans, and peanuts. African eggplants will keep up to week when stored whole in a cool and dry place.

Ethnic/Cultural Info

African eggplants have been a staple in African culture and cuisine. A popular item sold by street vendors, 80% of the total eggplant production in Africa comes from small family farms.

African eggplants are consumed on a regular basis in households and are popularly used in curry dishes. Ancient folklore also mentions this fruit as a blessing of fertility, and African eggplants are often given as a gift during wedding and child naming ceremonies.


Different Varieties of African Eggplant and their Characteristics

African eggplants are grown predominantly in Central and West Africa. They have since been introduced into the Caribbean and South America and are even grown in some of the warmer climates of southern Italy.

Today, African eggplants are available at farmers markets and specialty grocers in Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the United States, and Europe.

Some of the varieties of African Egg Plant includes:

1. 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.

2. N’Drowa

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.

Read Also: Garden Egg Production: Step-by-Step Guide

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.

VarietyMaturity (Days)PlantFruitRemarks and Tolerance/



N’Galam65/70Vigorous Rather smooth leavesFlattened Slightly ribbedPale greenBig (120-


150grams) Diameter = 10-11cm

BitterCan be used


for export markets

and Tolerant to


Soxna60/70Medium Hairy leavesFlattened RibbedGreenMedium (70-


80grams) Diameter = 7-8cm

BitterPopular in Senegal
Meketan70Vigorous and smooth leavesFlattened and ribbedIvory white200gVery slightly bitter 
N’Goyo75-80Vigorous and smooth leavesFlattened and ribbedDark green140Very bitter 

Health Values of African Eggplant

Different Varieties of African Eggplant and their Characteristics

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).

Read Also: Reasons why Garden Egg Fruit is Good for You

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.

Read Also: How To Raise Chickens – The Simple Secrets To A Great Backyard Flock


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

2 thoughts on “Different Varieties of African Eggplant and their Characteristics

  • Ayesiga Bridget

    Thank you so much for this information.
    I would like to inquire from you if at all you have made a study on the rooting pattern of African Eggplant and then what is the maximum root depth of Nakatti.
    Thank you Eagerly waiting for your reply.

  • zortilo nrel

    I respect your work, thanks for all the informative articles.


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