8 Varieties of Eggplant

Egg Shaped Eggplant
Egg Shaped Eggplant

National Garden Bureau, Inc. Used with Permission.

The large, blackish purple fruit of Solanum melongena, a member of the same genus as tomatoes and peppers, is called eggplant only in the U.S., although Australians refer to eggfruit. In Africa, it's called a garden egg. In its native India, eggplant is known as brinjal and in the Mediterranean area, they are known as aubergines.

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 large purple types, such as 'American Large Purple', a popular variety grown in late 19th-century America. It took the home gardener and in particular, heirloom and ethnic gardeners, to bring other eggplants into prominence.

Nowadays we are being tempted with fruits that are stripped, splotched or blushed with shades of violet. Some are even long and thin or small and round, in a rainbow of colors including pink, yellow, orange, green and even white. Here are 8 unusual varieties of eggplant to try when you are bored with the standard purple-black type.

Gardening Tip

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

  • 01 of 08

    'Casper' (Solanum melongena 'Casper')

    Eggplant 'Casper'
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    Many white-skinned varieties of eggplant are in cultivation, particularly in Southeast Asia. One that is readily available in North America is 'Casper', an elongated, white-skinned variety that matures fairly early and has a mild, almost mushroom-like taste. Developed in France, 'Casper' has fruits that are 5 to 7 inches long and 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')

    Eggplant 'Hansel'
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    'Hansel' belongs to a class of Asian eggplants, which typically have smaller fruit that ripens quickly. A 2008 AAS winner 'Hansel' features finger-length fruits that grow in clusters. The fruit has very little seed and 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 'PIngtong 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')

    Eggplant 'Machiaw'
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    'Machiaw' falls into a category known as Japanese eggplant, which some experts include in the Asian eggplant group. These are eggplants that produce slender, thin-skinned fruits with few seeds. 'Machiaw' is a hybrid with pale purple to deep pink fruits that are 10 to 12 inches long. Fruits are ready to harvest in 60 to 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')

    Eggplant 'Rosa Bianca'
    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 is difficult to grow in cooler regions. 'Rosa Bianca' is known for its incredible delicate, non-bitter flavor. This is an Italian heirloom variety with fruits that are about 5 inches long. It requires a longer growing season of 70 to 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')

    Eggplant 'Calliope'
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    Asia, Europe, and even Africa have had a more varied history with eggplants and have provided us with some of the best varieties. 'Calliope' is a stunning little oval, white and purple-streaked Indian-style eggplant. 'Calliope' does well even in cooler climates and is flavorful picked either young (2 inches) or fully mature (3 to 4inches). It is also spineless.

    Native Area: India

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Height: 24–30 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 06 of 08

    'Twinkle' (Solanum melongena 'Twinkle')

    Eggplant 'Twinkle'
    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,' 'Twinkle' grows to only about 2 feet tall. The oval fruits, maturing in 55 to 65 days, are deep plum sponged with cream and are at their best harvested while immature (2 to 2 1/2 inches long). This is a 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')

    Eggplant 'Kermit'
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    India and much of Southeast Asia have made eggplant a standout in their cuisines and grow and use dozens of varieties. 'Kermit' is a hybrid version of Thai round eggplant. It produces small round fruits, only about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The skin is a swirled green and white and can be eaten fresh or cooked. Fruits are ready for harvest in about 60 days

    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')

    Eggplant 'Turkish Orange'
    National Garden Bureau, Inc.

    While there is great variety among the eggplants in the species S. melongene, some of the more unusual eggplants are in the tomato-fruited species, S. integrifolium (sometimes classified as S. aethipicum). These are red and orange fruited plants often grown in Asia and Africa, and are sometimes known as Ethiopian eggplants. This species served as a genetic parent for many modern hybrid eggplants. An excellent variety is '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