8 Unusual Eggplant Types

Egg-shaped eggplant with white fruits

National Garden Bureau, Inc.

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.

Here are eight unusual varieties of eggplant to try when you get bored with the standard purple type.

Gardening Tip

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')

    'Casper' eggplant with white skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    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 fairly early, 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 with purple skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    'Hansel' belongs to a class of Asian eggplants, which typically have smaller fruits that ripens 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')

    'Machiaw' eggplant with purple skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    '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 shade 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 with white-and-purple skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    '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')

    'Calliope' eggplant with white-streaked purple skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    Asia, Europe, and even Africa have had a more varied history with eggplants than the U.S. and 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 with white-streaked purple skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    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 with white-streaked green skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    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 with streaked orange skin
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    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