Here’s Why Most Eggplants Are Purple

If you’ve ever stared at the glossy, near-black purple of eggplant and wondered what makes it such a fabulous and unusual color, you aren’t alone. Very few foods are that rich, deep purple, so eggplants certainly stand out from the crowd.

Eggplants are purple because they produce a pigment called nasunin. This can appear in a variety of hues, including red, black, and blue, but it often takes the form of a deep purple – as it does in most eggplants. This pigment is responsible for the unusual hue.

Why Are Eggplants Purple?

An eggplant is made purple by the pigment in its flesh, which is called nasunin and comes from a family of pigments known as anthocyanins. These pigments can appear in different variations, so some eggplants will look much darker than others, while some will be flecked or mottled – such as the graffiti eggplant.

grafitti eggplant

Eggplants tend to turn darker as they ripen, because the plant produces less chlorophyll in the berry, and instead steps up the production of nasunin. As an eggplant ripens, it can turn almost black, although some eggplants will never get this dark, no matter how ripe they become.

If you are growing the plants yourself, you may be able to work out how ripe your eggplant is just from the color. 

However, you will need to know what kind you are cultivating and how dark the fruits usually go before you can do this. If you don’t know the kind, you may not be able to tell whether your eggplant is unripe, or simply a paler variety.

Are Eggplants Always Purple?

No, eggplants aren’t always purple. They can be a whole range of different purple shades, but they can also be white – and indeed, this is where the eggplant got its name from.

Eggplants are unsurprisingly named because the white fruits look somewhat like eggs. They are oval, wider at the bottom than the top, and white. They are also similar in size to goose eggs when immature, and this led to Europeans giving them the name “eggplant.”

The fruit was also known as a garden egg for a while, but this fell out of usage, and now the term “eggplant” is used across America, although not globally. In Europe and Britain, eggplants are known as aubergines, while countries such as India refer to it as “brinjal.”

You can get eggplants that are flecked with both white and purple, usually speckled all over. There are no eggplants that have distinct stripes or spots, but there are quite a few different varieties, including the five following types.

One: Graffiti Eggplants

These are sometimes called striped eggplants, and they have a mix of purple and white all over them, rather as though they have been half colored in. Their skins are soft, and they are very pretty.

Two: Italian Eggplants

Italian eggplants tend to be very dark in color and they are one of the sweeter varieties, with a satisfying, spongy texture and a glossy exterior.

Three: White Eggplants

The white eggplant is a common one, and generally has a fully white skin. It is usually firm and pleasant to eat, and can be cooked just like any other eggplant, yielding much the same flavor and texture, despite the fact that it looks very different

Four: Indian Eggplants

You may also have heard these referred to as baby eggplants because they are much smaller than many other varieties. They are rounded and a medium-dark purple and they have a particularly velvety texture that makes them great in soups.

Five: Fairy Tale Eggplants

Another one with mixed hues, the fairy tale eggplant is violet and cream. It can vary from fruit to fruit, but it tends to have a smoother effect and more purple on it than a graffiti eggplant, which has a more “scribbled” appearance.

Why Are Some Eggplants White Or Speckled?

The reason that some eggplants are paler or have mixed hues is that the plant doesn’t produce an even amount of pigment across the fruit. Although this pigment is often produced in response to sunlight, some plants just produce less, regardless of how much sun they get.

Without the nasunin pigment, the eggplant’s skin has no color, and it, therefore, reverts to white or mixed purple and white.

Do Eggplants Start Off White?

Usually, only white eggplants start off white. Many eggplants will be pale when they first start to grow, but they will still reflect the color that they are going to grow into as the fruit gets bigger and ripens. A dark purple eggplant will usually be dark purple as soon as it starts growing.

If you have a stripy eggplant, the fruits will show their stripes from the beginning. Therefore, if the fruit is pale, it’s likely that it is going to stay that way, although the color may develop and change a little as it grows.

Can Picked Eggplants Turn White?

No, unless they are going moldy. A picked eggplant should retain its color while the flesh is still good to eat, although it may go a little brown if it has been cut open and allowed to oxidize. The exterior should not become white, however.

white eggplant

This is because the pigments will remain in the skin even once the fruit has been picked. It should retain its color, regardless of what that color is, whether it’s on or off the plant.

If you are seeing spots of white on your eggplant, it will need to be thrown away. These are likely to be mold, and they show that the fruit is no longer good to eat.

Conclusion

Eggplants tend to be purple because of a pigment in the skin of the fruit, but this isn’t always the case. Some eggplants are white, while others are a mix of different colors, and can be white, speckled, or pale purple, depending on the variety. If you are growing your own eggplants, make sure you know what kind you have so you know when to pick the fruits.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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