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Aubergine    

(brinjal, eggplant, garden egg). Solanum melongena (Solanaceae). A short-lived perennial, 0.5-1.5m tall, with purple flowers, solitary or in cymes of 2-5; leaves large, simple and alternate. The probable origin is India with secondary centres of diversity in Southeast Asia, particularly China. They were introduced into Europe in the 13th century, later to Africa. The 2-locular fruits vary in shape and size, from 5-15cm long, 3-6cm diameter; they may be yellow, black, white or purple in colour. Both immature and mature fruits are fried or roasted.

In warm climates, seeds are sown in sheltered containers or seedbeds and transplanted to ridges or raised beds at a square spacing of 50-60 x 50-60cm or rows 75-90cm apart, 60-75cm apart in the row. In temperate areas, seeds should be sown in spring in containers under greenhouse conditions; a temperature of more than 15ºC is necessary. Plants may be grown to maturity in 25-30cm pots, beds or in growing bags. A steady temperature of 25-30ºC is required during the growing period to promote flowering and fruit development; most modern cultivars are daylength-neutral. Most balanced composts are appropriate and a pH range of 5.5-6.8 is required. Removal of the terminal shoot promotes lateral branching. The fruits may be harvested when fully coloured (usually 80-120 days from transplanting), by severing the fruit stalk 2cm above the persistent calyx.

Many F1 hybrids of very similar character and merit are available for temperate climates, and a large number of local cultivars are available in the tropics. In the US recommended cultivars include ‘Beauty’, large, round, cream; ‘Black Beauty’, very large, egg-shaped, purple-black; ‘Black Bell’, bell-shaped to oval, purple-black; ‘Casper’, pear-shaped, ivory; ‘Classy Chassis’, pear-shaped, purple-black; ‘Dourga’, cylindrical, white; ‘Dusky’, pear-shaped, purple-black; ‘Early Beauty’, short, oval, dark purple; ‘Haguro Hitakuchimaru’: large quantities of very small, oval purple fruits; ‘Ichiban’, narrow-cylindrical, purple; ‘Millionaire’, slender, elongated, dark purple; ‘Pingtung’, slender, deep purple.

Pests and disease are similar to those described for tomatoes grown in greenhouses. Diseases of particular importance in the US include verticilllium wilt, phomopsis blight and fruit rot.

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