White Garden Egg (Eggplant)
Solanum aethiopicum var. Gilo
This African variety has a delicious and slightly bitter flavor. There are many varieties of Garden Egg, but this white variety is most popular among West African and Southeast Asian families. The fruit are versatile and can be eaten raw, boiled, sautéed, or in soups. They are slightly later to produce and taller than other eggplant but very productive once they get going. Many traditional African recipes can be found online but they also are excellent simply grilled or sautéed with other veggies. The rich flavor lends itself well to spicy dishes. Young leaves are cooked down into stews.
The seeds for this variety originate from Yao, an immigrant from Togo and Ethnic Crop Specialist in Maryland. The seeds were sourced from relatives in Africa and have been grown out from years on a research farm. This variety, also known as Scarlet Eggplant or Gilo, is very sought after in the West African communities, especially those from Ghana, Senegal-Gambia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. In Ghana, they are one of the three most important vegetables along with tomatoes and peppers. They are valued for their rich and slightly bitter flavor, thin skin, and taste in numerous African stews. These are also popular with Burmese and Nepali refugee families. The white, unripe fruit can be eaten raw, boiled whole, and eaten with chili paste or most commonly cooked in stews. The leaves are also eaten and are rich in iron, vitamin c, calcium, and riboflavin. In one recipe, they are sautéed with onion, garlic, anise, mushrooms, hot pepper, parsley, and nutmeg. Then, served as a side dish over rice, couscous, boiled yucca, or yams.
Days to maturity: 88
Seeds per pack: 40
Planting / harvesting notes
These are heat-loving and seeds should be started indoors about 1/4" deep, about 8 weeks before the last frost. Transplant into garden well after the danger of frost. The growing characteristics are similar to most eggplants. The plants reach about 4-5 feet tall and should be planted 12 inches apart. They need full sun and fertile soil. Staking helps as the plants become heavy. The eggplants begin green, but should be picked when they are about 3 inches long and white. They must be picked regularly to keep production and ensure they don’t over ripen. For seed saving the fruits ripen to orange.
Seed keeping notes
Eggplants are generally self-pollinating, though we isolate different varieties of the same species by 50 feet, in hopes that flying insects will not cross pollinate them unexpectedly. Eggplant seeds are ripe when the fruits get far past their edible stage, and have turned another color, in this case orange. Cut the fruit, scrape out seeds (perhaps through a heavy-duty screen) into a vessel, add a little water (1-2" is probably plenty) to your seeds and pulp to keep them from drying out, and allow them to ferment away from direct sunlight. Fermentation is not necessary with eggplants, but it makes seed cleaning a bit easier. Ideally, you will stir the concoction every day for 3-5 days. In the end, add more water to fill the vessel, stir one final time, and allow to settle. Pour off the floating material and then strain the seeds through a strainer. Sometimes, you will need to add more water and pour off the floating material several times until the water is clear and you can see the seeds sunken at the bottom. Squeeze dry the strained seeds in a towel, and then lay out to dry on a labeled screen or paper product in a ventilated place away from direct sunlight for a week or two.