Brinjal (Solanum melongena), is an easily cultivated plant belonging to the family Solanaceae. Its fruit is high in nutrition and commonly consumed as a vegetable. The fruit and other parts of the plant are used in traditional medicine.

Origin and distribution
Wild brinjal plants are found in Malaysia and India. Certain indigenous varieties of the plants seem to be unique to certain parts of the world. For example, Solanum insanum, a very prickly variety of the plant, is found mostly in the dry hills of West Bengal, India. Similarly, some yellow-fruited varieties of the plant are found growing abundantly in the wild in Malaya. The plant was first domesticated in India. The Persians then introduced brinjal to Africa from India while the Arabs introduced it to Spain. It presumably spread from Spain to the rest of Europe. Today, the many varieties of brinjal plants are found growing throughout the warmer parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, countries where it is commercially grown include Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Brinjal is a rather small plant growing up to 1.5 m high. Brinjal is classified as a herb because of its non-woody stem. The simple leaves are oblong to oval, slightly lobed, and have an undersurface that is a paler green than the upper surface. Both leaves and stem are covered with fine hairs. The flowers sprout singly or in small clusters from the leaf axils. Individual flowers are star-shaped, light purple in colour and have short stalks. There are 5 stamens attached to the corolla tube and a single superior ovary. Its root system is fibrous. The fruits are berries with many seeds. Fruits are either long or round and vary in colour according to the variety: white, orange, green, purple or black. It is a perennial with fruits growing all year round.

Usage and potential
Brinjal fruits are commonly considered as vegetables. They are cooked in various ways. Common cooking practices include baking, barbecuing, frying or pickling the fruits. They can also be pureed, flavoured, and used as a dip or chutney as is popular in Mediterranean and Indian cuisine. In Indian cuisine, they are used in curries and even made into soufflés. The cut fruits are soaked in cold salted water before being cooked to avoid discoloration and to remove its mild bitterness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, all parts of the plant can be used to stop intestinal bleeding. The fruit of the plant is used as an antidote in cases of mushroom poisoning. In Indochina, parts of the plant are used as a purgative. For Traditional Malay Medicine, the ashes of the fruit are used in dry, hot poultices to treat haemorrhoids. To treat ulcers, the root is pounded and applied inside the nostrils. The Amboinese take the juice of the root from a wild variety of the plant to ease a difficult labour. Arabs have a superstition that the fruit has high "heating" properties which causes melancholia and madness. For this reason, Malay and Indian women do not consume brinjals for the first 40 days after giving birth.

Other uses
The people of the Bera River place the prickly stem of the brinjal plant at the threshold of a house where the first rice harvest is stored as a "protective" measure.

Variant names
Common name: Brinjal, Eggplant.
Scientific name: Solanum melongena.
Malay name: Terong manis (sweet brinjal), Terong china (Chinese brinjal), Terong ungu (purple brinjal), Terong rapoh, Terong puteh (white brinjal), Terong biru (blue brinjal), Terong hijau (green brinjal).
Chinese name: Qie zi (Mandarin).
Tamil name: Katirikai.
Other names: Guinea squash, Apple-of-love, Garden egg, Gully bean, Melanzana, Melongene, Pea apple, Pea aubergine, Poor-man's-caviar, Susumber, Terong.

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

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The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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