If you didn’t realise how many types of eggplant there are to discover, it’s time to have your mind blown! There’s more to the exotic aubergine than first meets the eye. And while we love sleek and polished classic black eggplant varieties with their undulating rotund shape, there’s a massive choice for modern gardeners looking to grow their own exotic delights. From bright purple and lime green to orange stripes and ivory white, you’d be astounded at the variety available.
The aubergine’s Mediterranean and south-east Asian origins have a big part to play in the types of eggplant available to grow – with breeds linked to Italy, China and Japan, as well as India and America. With its broad cross-continental allure, that ornamental fusion of colors and shapes will add plenty of interest to your gardening exploits. And once you know how to grow eggplant, such international diversity will add great culinary scope and a real gourmet flourish to any size of kitchen garden.
Let this be your year for discovering the extraordinary versatility of this show-stopping superfood. Feast your eyes on these eggplant varieties, and bring some glossy glamour to your home-growing adventures.
10 types of eggplant to grow in your garden
If you're looking to cultivate some of the best types of eggplant, just remember these superfoods come in all shapes and sizes, from bulbous ‘Melanzana Violetta di Firenze’ to dinky ‘Little Fingers’.
A rainbow of color options include classic black ‘Moneymaker’, magenta ‘Galine’, orange ‘Toga’ and jade ‘Green Knight’. Still, whether you’re looking for a whopper to showcase as part of your kitchen garden ideas or a compact hybrid variety to keep indoors, the following guide to popular eggplant varieties can help get you started.
1. ‘Black Beauty’
Flourishing in gardens for a century, heirloom variety ‘Black Beauty’ is a reliable, open-pollinated eggplant. Glossy deep rich violet fruits reaching 6in (15cm) spring in abundance from sturdy 4ft (1.2m) plants.
If you're after something exotic to plant in a greenhouse, these beauties thrive under glass. They are also happy in sheltered, sunny patio pots. Each plant can grow four-six fruits that take 80 days to mature.
Sow from February to April; harvest from August to October.
Like ostrich eggs, creamy and shiny, the fruits of Aubergine ‘Clara’ are bright white, oval shaped and slightly ribbed. Early maturing, medium sized and heavy cropping, this striking Italian hybrid with its bright green calyx is extremely tasty.
Perfect for greenhouse beds and container growing, and also happy in sunny, sheltered garden borders if covered with a cloche for two weeks.
Sow from January to March; harvest from August to October.
Combining pinky-purple and creamy white striped fruit and silver-green foliage, ‘Pinstripe’ is a show-stopping eggplant. It has been bred especially for container gardening ideas, although it also adds vibrancy to patio displays and raised beds.
This compact dwarf F1 aubergine produces a heavy yield of 80-100g fruits that can be picked small or left to mature, and enjoyed well into autumn.
Sow from February to April; harvest from July to October.
4. ‘Turkish Orange’
The sunshine hues of these brightly colored orbs will be a hit with anyone who already knows how to grow tomatoes – and the fruits will taste sweeter than other aubergines if eaten before they are totally ripe.
This charming heirloom variety yields an abundance of shiny round 3-4in (8-10cm) fruits with a tasty, perfumed character. A stunning addition to beds and patio containers.
Sow from January to April; harvest from August to October.
Statuesque early-cropping ‘Bonica’ is a quality eggplant for homegrowing. While tall enough to work well in a raised garden bed, this French-bred AGM eggplant variety is also great for an unheated greenhouse or for patio containers if properly secured and supported.
Replete with glossy oval fruits varying from deepest purple to black, this is one of the most reliable types of eggplant.
Sow from February to April; harvest from July to October.
6. ‘Rosa Bianca’
With its unusual creamy lavender coloring, these spherical fruits typify one of the classic Italian ‘heirloom’ types of eggplant. Compared with other eggplant varieties, this is a mild-tasting aubergine, originating from Sicily.
These compact plants reach 2-3ft tall (60-90cm), so are fine in modest-sized growing spaces like a mini greenhouse just as long as you keep them warm.
Sow from January to early April; harvest from July to October.
For aubergine lovers looking for something to supplement a more spicy palate, ‘Kermit’ is one of several tiny Thai eggplant varieties.
Perfect for green or red curries and stir-fries, this aubergine (aka ‘bitter ball’) grows green 2in (5cm) golf ball fruits with white stripes. It’s best in a greenhouse, but also thrives in a sunny, sheltered spot outside.
Sow from February to March; harvest from August to September.
One of the classic ‘pear-shape’ types of eggplant, this F1 aubergine is a delightful early-fruiting heavy cropper. Producing clusters of glossy black-magenta fruits, it is also one of the more ornamental eggplant varieties.
Since it is capable of amassing many 5lb fruits, it fares best supported with smart trellis ideas, frames or poles, or grown indoors with canes.
Sow from February to early April; harvest from July to October.
9. Pea eggplant
Referred to affectionately as the wild eggplant, turkey berry or the devil’s fig, these crunchy clusters of miniature berries look nothing like the classic types of eggplant. Like bitter peas, these fruits elevate homegrown Thai cooking and are essential in green curries, hot soups and spicy stir-fries.
Plants can rise to 9ft (3m), so make sure they are well supported with a fence, frame or climbing plant support ideas if growing outdoors.
Sow from February to April; harvest from August to September.
10. Purple Graffiti
Living works of art don’t come more vibrant than this! These eggplants are edible and ornamental, thanks to haphazard purple stripes and creamy white flesh, cooking to a soft and tender sweetness.
Also known as Purple Rain, Fairy Tale, Shooting Stars and the Sicilian eggplant, this aubergine deserves pride of place in your potager garden and the stripes are still visible after cooking.
Sow from February to April; harvest July to October.
What is the difference between Thai eggplant and normal eggplant?
As we have seen, there isn’t really a ‘normal’ eggplant. Of course, we are all familiar with the classic black bell shape. Many Thai aubergines look different to conventional glossy types of eggplant. Thai green aubergines (as with ‘Kermit’ above) look like stripy green golf balls, whilst others are purple (‘Long Purple’), yellow (‘Yellow Egg’) and white (‘White Oblong’). And then there are pea eggplants (see above), which are like clusters of miniature bitter grapes.
However, Thai aubergines are just like other types of eggplant in terms of sowing, growing and plant care. They all require a reliable source of warmth, strong support with canes or strings, a moisture-retentive soil, regular feeds and plenty of sunshine. Sow indoors in late winter, and in mid spring grow on into a pot or a greenhouse border. Just like other eggplant varieties, you’ll find Thai aubergines are some of the easiest vegetables to grow and some of the most dynamic to harvest.
The only real ‘difference’ is that Thai varieties can often be enjoyed raw. This is not the case with classic globe or bell-shaped varieties, which tend to have thicker skins. So as well as bulking up curries and stir-fries and absorbing other flavors well, the Thai eggplant’s uncooked flesh adds crunch and piquancy to salads, plus a sharp contrast to dips and pastes.
How many different types of eggplant are there?
It’s not easy to put a precise figure to the number of types of eggplant available to grow. They span a vast colorful spectrum, from miniature spheres to bulbous bells, small and large, compact and elongated. And as we mentioned, they have a collective international status straddling Europe, America, India, the Middle East and Far-East Asia.
In terms of broad categories, however, there are a few key types of eggplant. Below are some of the most popular to use as a starting point for a greenhouse or small vegetable garden – although this list is by no means exhaustive.
- Globe: Aka the American eggplant, this aubergine has that definitive shape, mild flavor and spongy texture. Due to its size (10in/25cm), it’s great for slicing and grilling as well as the classic eggplant parmesan.
- Italian: Similar to American types of eggplant, but with a more tender flesh and delicate sweet flavor. This variety also tends to be smaller, at 5-8in (12-20cm) long. Good for grills, lasagnes, stuffing and roasting.
- Indian: Usually round, purple and small at a few inches long. These types of eggplant have a thinner skin than Italian and American eggplant varieties. They are sweeter and creamier, and great mashed or cubed.
- Chinese: With an even thinner skin and fewer seeds, these types of eggplant are sweeter still. Long, light in color and lovely in stir-fries.
- Japanese: Similar to Chinese eggplant varieties, but smaller with dark purple skins. Seedless, sweet (if young), quick cooking and great in grills.
- Thai: These types of eggplant are tiny, round, crunchy and bitter. Ideal in salads, or cooked in stir-fries and authentic Thai curries.
Where to buy eggplant and aubergine seeds
If you’d like to try growing aubergines and eggplants, here are our suggestions for the best places to buy seeds. There’s a huge range available online, with different types of eggplant tailored to indoor cultivation and container growing as well as conventional outdoor planting. Use our quick links below for an easy way to start.
Where to buy eggplant seeds in the US:
- Shop eggplant seeds at Amazon
- Shop eggplant seeds at Burpee
- Shop eggplant seeds at Walmart
- Shop eggplant seeds at Home Depot
Where to buy aubergine seeds in the UK:
As assistant editor of Amateur Gardening magazine, Janey's gardening passion was fostered from an early age, when her amazing mum had her deadheading hydrangeas, mulching roses, and propagating strawberry plants from runners for school open days. Her gardening childhood was like living with Tom and Barbara from The Good Life, with figs growing in the greenhouse, homemade blueberry jams piled high, and demijohns filled with her dad’s elderflower sherry experiments. City living has generally meant doing without a conventional outdoor space, but she is slowly transforming her thimble-sized abode into a haven of vertical vegetation. She's also taken part in lots of conservation and rewilding projects for the RHS and TCV as a way of exploring her horticultural horizons whilst helping to create and maintain beautiful spaces for others. When she grows up, she would like a Victorian conservatory, some proper old-fashioned cold frames and bell cloches, and a better system for storing all her seed packets.
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