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.
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.
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.