8 Unusual Eggplant Types

white eggplant on a wooden countertop

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The large, dark-purple fruit of Solanum melongena, a member of the same genus as tomatoes and peppers, is only known as eggplant in the United States (although Australians refer to it as eggfruit). In Africa, it's called "garden egg." In its native India, eggplant is dubbed "brinjal," and, in the Mediterranean area, it's called "aubergine."

The fact that Americans are the only culture to call it eggplant reveals some confusion regarding a species that's far more diverse than we realize. We're most familiar with the eggplant types you can get at the supermarket, such as 'American Large Purple,' a popular variety grown in late 19th-century America. It took home gardeners and, in particular, heirloom and ethnic gardeners to bring other eggplants into prominence.

Nowadays, the selection includes fruits that are striped, splotched, or blushed with shades of violet. Some are even long and thin or small and round, available in a rainbow of colors, including pink, yellow, orange, green, and even white.

If you want to pick your eggplants by flavor, many of the smaller eggplant varieties have fewer seeds than larger varieties like Black Beauty and American Large Purple. This improves flavor and cuts down on preparation time. Eggplant seeds are bitter and salting and soaking is often part of any recipe using this vegetable. The Asian types are also prolific producing many fruits per plant in a shorter period of time.

Here are eight unusual varieties of eggplant to try instead of the standard purple type.


Even in warm climates, eggplants are not the easiest vegetable to grow well. The seeds are slow to germinate and develop, much like peppers. Eggplants thrive only in hot climates, requiring nighttime temperatures above 50 degrees. If you're growing them from seeds in a cooler climate, start the seeds indoors in February.

  • 01 of 08

    'Casper' (Solanum melongena 'Casper')

    white eggplant variety

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    Many white-skinned varieties of eggplant are in cultivation, particularly in Southeast Asia. One that's readily available in North America is 'Casper,' an elongated white variety that matures fairly early and has a mild, almost mushroom-like taste. Developed in France, the fruits of this cultivar ripen in about 60 days. White hybrids like 'Easter Egg' are also widely available in seed catalogs.

    • Native Area: India
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Height: 2–3 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 02 of 08

    'Hansel' (Solanum melongena 'Hansel')

    'Hansel' Eggplant variety

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    'Hansel' belongs to a class of Asian eggplants, which typically have smaller fruits that ripen quickly. A 2008 All-America Selections winner, this eggplant type features finger-length fruits with very little seed that grow in clusters. The plant is compact enough to be grown in containers, which means you can start it early. It can be harvested in about 55 days, when the fruits are 3 inches long, or left to mature fully to 10-inch fruits. Some similar varieties to consider include 'Ping Tung Long,' 'Thai Long Green,' 'Louisiana Long Green,' and 'Green Banana.'

    • Native Area: India
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Height: 24–36 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 08

    'Machiaw' (Solanum melongena 'Machiaw')

    Japanese eggplant

    Stieglitz / Getty Images

    'Machiaw' falls into a category known as Japanese eggplant, which some experts include in the Asian eggplant group. These plants produce slender, thin-skinned fruits with few seeds. 'Machiaw' is a hybrid with fruits ranging in color from pale purple to deep pink and measuring 10–12 inches long. Fruits are ready to harvest in 60–70 days.

    • Native Area: India
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Height: 24–36 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 08

    'Rosa Bianca' (Solanum melongena 'Rosa Bianca')

    'Rosa Bianca' eggplant variety

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    'Rosa Bianca,' a plump white-and-lavender-streaked fruit, has become something of a poster vegetable for the heirloom gardener, but it's difficult to grow in cooler regions. This cultivar, known for its incredibly delicate, non-bitter flavor, is an Italian heirloom variety with fruits about 5 inches long. It requires a longer growing season, of 70–80 days.

    • Native Area: India
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Height: 24–32 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    'Calliope' (Solanum melongena 'Calliope')

    white and purple streaked eggplant

    Sophie Walster / Getty Images

    Asia, Europe, and even Africa, all with more varied history with eggplants than the U.S., have provided us with some of the best varieties. An example is 'Calliope,' a white-and-purple-streaked type that's small, oval, and spineless. Although it's an Indian-style eggplant, 'Calliope' does well even in cooler climates and is flavorful picked either young (2 inches) or fully mature (3–4 inches).

    • Native Area: India
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Height: 24–30 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 06 of 08

    'Twinkle' (Solanum melongena 'Twinkle')

    'Twinkle' eggplant

    Zoonar RF / Getty Images

    If you prefer the traditional pear-shaped eggplant and your garden is borderline for warmth, you can try 'Twinkle.' Even smaller than 'Hansel,' this eggplant variety grows to only about 2 feet high. The oval fruits, maturing in 55–65 days, are a deep plum sponged with cream and are best when harvested while immature, measuring 2–2.5 inches long. This is another spineless plant.

    • Native Area: India
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Height: 18–24 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 07 of 08

    'Kermit' (Solanum melongena 'Kermit')

    'Kermit' eggplant variety

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    India and much of Southeast Asia have made eggplant a standout in their cuisines, growing and using dozens of varieties. 'Kermit' is a hybrid version of Thai round eggplant. It produces small round fruits, only about 1.5 inches in diameter, with green skin swirled with white. Fruits are ready for harvest in about 60 days and can be eaten fresh or cooked.

    • Native Area: India
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–11
    • Height: 37–42 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 08 of 08

    'Turkish Orange' (Solanum integrifolium 'Turkish Orange')

    'Turkish Orange' eggplant

    Matthew Oliphant / flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

    While there is great variety among the eggplants in the species S. melongene, some of the more unusual types fall under the tomato-fruited species, S. integrifolium (sometimes classified as S. aethipicum). These red-and-orange-fruited plants — sometimes known as Ethiopian eggplants — are often grown in Asia and Africa. The species has served as a genetic parent for many modern hybrids, including 'Turkish Orange,' which produces 2-inch fruits that are excellent in curries. It matures in about 75 days.

    • Native Area: Eastern Africa, Southwestern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Height: 18–22 inches
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun