The African eggplant is also commonly referred to as the bitter tomato, scarlet eggplant, mock tomato, or garden egg. Its scientific name is Solanum aethiopicum. It is a nutritious and delicious plant mainly grown for its fruits.
How Does An African Eggplant Look?
African eggplants can grow up to two meters (6.6 feet). They have alternating, leafy blades that can grow up to 30 centimeters in length and 21 centimeters wide and have smooth or lobed margins.
The African eggplant produces 12 white flowers that develop into egg-shaped berries. Berries may be smooth or grooved and red or orange in color depending on the variety of plant.
The Types of African Eggplants?
This species can be classified into four different groups:
- Gilo group. It produces different types of fruits that are edible. They have different shapes ranging from depressed sphere-like to oval-like eggplants.
- Kumba group. It has one main stem and leaves that can be picked up and eaten as vegetables. Fruits can be picked when green or red.
- Shum group. It is a short multi-branched eggplant with small hairless leaves. The shoots can be plucked multiple times to be used as green vegetables. Its fruits are small and bitter, not particularly edible.
- Aculeatum group. It has flat-shaped fruits and sometimes is grown only for decorative purposes.
What Are the Health Benefits of African Eggplant?
Antioxidant. African eggplant extract is a potential source of natural antioxidants that help to control disorders caused by oxidative stress. The extract can be used in the pharmaceutical and food industry.
Managing type 2 diabetes. Studies on African eggplant supplements suggest that it can help manage hyperglycemia in people living with type 2 diabetes.
Reducing blood pressure. The African eggplant contains some chlorogenic acid, which is a bioactive compound that helps reduce or maintain blood pressure.
Eye vision improvement. African eggplants have alkaloids. Research found that alkaloid extract helps improve vision. Thus, the eggplant can be used to treat eye conditions.
African eggplants also contain minerals and vitamins that are helpful to the body, including functions like:
- Muscle compatibility
- Maintaining heart rhythm
- Helping with bone and teeth formation
- Regulating metabolic and enzyme reaction
- Acid-base regulation in the body
African Eggplant Nutrition
African eggplants have high water content and very few calories or lipids. It's a good source of vitamins and minerals.
100 grams of juice contain:
- Water, 89.27 g
- Protein, 2.24 g
- Fat, 0.52 g
- Fiber, 2.96 g
- Ash, 0.87 g
- Carbohydrates, 4.14 g
- Calcium, 498.47 mg
- Magnesium, 1.98 mg
- Iron, 1.02 mg
- Potassium, 4.474 mg
- Zinc, 0.077 mg
Also, the African eggplant contains biologically active compounds like ascorbic acid, alkaloids, terpenoids, saponins, flavonoids, and tannins that have therapeutic properties. These biologically active compounds have antiviral, anticancer, anticonvulsant, and anti-bacterial properties.
How Was African Eggplant Used to Treat and Cure Ailment Traditionally?
In some African countries, eggplant was used to cure disorders traditionally:
- The roots and fruits were used to relieve gas and calm the stomach. It was also effective in the treatment of high blood pressure and colic in babies
- African eggplant extract with some alcohol content was used as a sedative, an antiemetic (to prevent vomiting), anxiolytic (to treat anxiety), and treatment for tetanus after an abortion.
- Juice from leaves was used as a sedative for urinary system complaints.
- Crushed and softened fruits are used to treat constipation.
- Boiled juice from roots was used to treat hookworms.
- Crushed leaves were used for gastric ailments.
- Powder or ash from several parts was used to treat toothache, bronchitis, cholera, skin infection, and asthenia.
Which Parts of African Eggplant Are Edible?
African eggplant young leaves can be picked and prepared in soup. The fruits can either be boiled, steamed, or used in stew with other vegetables or meat when they turn red or orange in color.
Below is a recipe to prepare African eggplant with Okra for six people. It only takes around 30 minutes.
- Two big tomatoes
- Two eggs
- Two carrots
- ¼ kg okra
- ½ kg African eggplant
- 2 cups water
- Two onions
- Eight tablespoon cooking oil
- Wash, peel, and chop the tomatoes.
- Wash and chop the onions.
- Wash, peel and cut the carrots lengthwise.
- Wash the okra and remove the end tips.
- Wash the eggplant and remove the stems.
- Fry the onions lightly in oil until it starts to change color. Add tomatoes and salt, then stir until it softens to form a thick syrup.
- Add the African eggplant, okra, and carrots. Stir well.
- Add water, cover the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, and simmer until the vegetables are soft.
- Whisk the eggs until they bubble, then add in the vegetables while stirring slowly for 5 minutes.
- Season to taste. Serve hot.
What Causes Bitterness in African Eggplants?
Alkaloids in African eggplants give it its bitter taste, and researchers have insisted that it should be eaten in small quantities. This is because some species contain poisonous alkaloids that may cause diarrhea and excess calcium deposition in body tissues.