Jilo Brazilian eggplant produces small, vibrant red fruitand, as the name suggests, is widely grown in Brazil, but Brazilians aren’t theonly ones growing jilo eggplants. Read on for more jilo eggplant info.
Jilo is a green fruit related to both the tomatoand the eggplant.Once treated as a distinct species, Solanumgilo, it is now known to be of the group Solanum aethiopicum.
This deciduous shrub in the family Solanaceae has a highlybranching habit and grows up to 6 ½ feet (2 m.) in height. Leaves are alternatewith smooth or lobed margins and can get up to a foot (30 cm.) long. The plantproduces cluster of white blooms that develop into egg- or spindle-shaped fruitthat, at maturity, are orange to red and either smooth or grooved.
Jilo Brazilian eggplant goes by a myriad of names: Africaneggplant, scarlet eggplant, bitter tomato, mock tomato, garden egg, andEthiopian nightshade.
Jilo, or gilo, eggplant is commonly found throughout Africafrom southern Senegal to Nigeria, Central Africa to eastern Africa and intoAngola, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. It likely resulted from the domestication of S. anguivi frica.
In the late 1500’s, the fruit was introduced via Britishtraders who imported it from the coast of West Africa. For a time, it attainedsome popularity and was referred to as “guinea squash.” The small fruit, aboutthe size (and color) of a hen’s egg, was soon dubbed “egg plant.”
It is eaten as a vegetable but is actually a fruit. It isharvested when it is still a bright green and pan fried or, when red and ripe, it’seaten fresh or pureed into juice much like a tomato.
As a general rule, all types of African eggplant thrive infull sun with well-draining soil with a pH of 5.5 and 5.8. Gilo eggplant growsbest when daytime temps are between 75-95 F. (25-35 C.).
Seeds can be collected from fully ripe fruit and then allowedto dry in a cool, dark area. When dry, plant the seeds indoors. Sow seeds 6inches (15 cm.) apart in rows spaced 8 inches (20 cm.) apart. When theseedlings have 5-7 leaves, harden the plants off in preparation fortransplanting outside.
When growing jilo eggplant, space the transplants 20 inches(50 cm.) part in rows that are spaced 30 inches (75 cm.) apart. Stake and tiethe plants just as you would a tomato plant.
Jilo eggplant care is fairly easy once the plants haveestablished. Keep them moist but not sodden. An addition of well-rotted manureor compost will improve yields.
Harvest the fruit in about 100-120 from planting and pick ona regular basis to encourage additional production.
Garden egg grown at the UMass Research Farm for sale at an African market in Worcester, Mass. in 2014. (Photo by Frank Mangan)
Frank Mangan, Zoraia Barros, Aline Marchese and Heriberto Godoy-Hernández
Garden egg is a type of eggplant that is used as a food crop in several countries in Africa. It is a small, white fruit with a teardrop or roundish shape that is valued for its bitterness. There is debate on the specific species of garden egg. Solanum aethiopicum is suggested in some sources (National Research Council of the National Academies. 2006), which includes types such as “garden egg,” “scarlet eggplant,” and “gilo.” Others suggest the species S. gilo is synonymous to the S. aethiopicum Gilo group (Danquah and Ofori, 2012).
Garden egg is an important crop in several African countries and is indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa. It can be stored for up to three months by letting it dry. This is a useful characteristic in the tropics given the lack of refrigeration in some rural areas. In Ghana, garden egg is one of the three most consumed vegetables, along with tomatoes and peppers. In 2007, total production of garden egg in Ghana was estimated to be over 66 million lbs. (Horn et al., 2007). In Côte d'Ivoire, garden egg was reported to be the second most important vegetable crop after okra (Aliero, 2007 Siemonsma, 1981). It is used in stews and eaten raw (Figure 1). The stems and leaves of garden egg are eaten in some African countries, but not in Ghana. Garden egg is used as a less expensive meat substitute because its spongy texture allows it to absorb other flavors, similar to meat (National Research Council of the National Academies. 2006).
Stores in Massachusetts that cater to the African population sell canned garden egg. The packaging shows a teardrop shape (Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5). Markets in Massachusetts, however, usually sell garden egg from outside the state that is larger and rounder (Figure 6). In general, market owners have expressed preference for the larger, rounder type. This is inconsistent with the fact that the teardrop shape seems to be common in Ghana, based on the pictures on the canned garden egg. Researchers at UMass introduced a fresh teardrop type of garden egg to African markets in 2014 and 2015 (Figure 7, Figure 8).
Garden egg for sale at a farmers' market in London England in 2016 also had the larger, oval shape found in some markets in the United States. These were selling for ($3.00/lbs.) (Figure 9)
Garden egg popular in Ghana has a similar shape and growth pattern to jiló, a popular eggplant in parts of Brazil. Jiló is also known and appreciated for its bitterness. In fact, one of the garden egg types on the can of the processed garden egg in Figure 2 looks much like one type of jiló (translating from Portuguese to "long, light green" in English). This could be why in 2014, two types of jiló grown at the UMass Research Farm were introduced to an African market in Worcester and were sold as garden egg (Figure 10, Figure 11). The owner said that his customers, dominated by Ghanaians and Liberians, prefer white types, but he was able to make the case to his customers that the taste and bitterness of the Brazilian types are very similar.
In 2016, the comprido verde claro type of jiló was successfully introduced to a cooperating market in Roxbury Massachusetts, along with the tear-drop white type. Some African customers at this market said that they prefer green types of garden egg. Innocent Nwosu, A Nigerian working with UMass on this work, said that in some regions of Nigeria the preference is for green types over white types (Innocent Nwosu, Personal communication). We also met a customer from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who also preferred green garden egg. Here is a video showing the promotional materials and the white and green garden egg grown in Massachusetts for sale at market in Roxbury that sells many products popular among Africans.
In addition to canned garden egg, frozen garden egg is commonly found in the growing African markets in Massachusetts (Figure 12). Some are grown and frozen in Africa and shipped to the United States. In addition, market owners in Massachusetts will freeze fresh garden egg grown in the United States to prolong shelf life. Customers, however, prefer the vegetable fresh.
Visits to markets in Washington DC in June 2016 found three different types of garden egg for sale in African markets. Two were small, teardrop types one was white (Figure 13) and the other was white with green stripes (Figure 14). Both turned orange as they matured. The third type was white and much bigger. It had not turned color at that time (Figure 15). Figure 16 shows one of the small types and the large white type together with a dollar bill in the picture to provide scale.
Eggplant leaves continue their alternate growth pattern throughout the life of the plant. Leaves on older plants usually have a scalloped margin. Leaf undersides are often covered with dense, woolly hairs, and upper leaves are soft and fuzzy. Leaves generally grow in a closely spaced, bushy formation, forming plants between 2 and 4 feet high and 1 and 3 feet wide. Flowers usually bloom in clusters above opposite leaf pairs.
Eggplant leaves are a good indicator of healthy plants, so when choosing transplants at the garden center, look for leaves that are fully unfurled rather than stunted or still curled up. Choose healthy-looking dark green plants and if possible, only buy the kind in individual containers rather than six-celled packages, since their roots will be less disturbed on transplant. Also check that leaves are insect- and disease-free, with no spotting, holes or other signs of damage.
Yes! You can eat the fruit of pumpkin sticks, and the green fruit extract. In particular, the leaves of the solanum integrifolium has been proven to have anti-inflammatory benefit, however, some varieties have many sharp thorns all over the leaves and stems.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4123553/#sec5title
After all, it’s eggplant, named “ornamental” in the west where it’s not a familiar taste or food. However, these can be bitter, and so most people in the western parts of the world prefer to use these ornamentally, especially in fall.
When young and green, or when orange and fully ripened. Native to Africa, the fruits are typically eaten green when they’re sweetest, however, they’re also used in recipes good for bitter fruits when they’re bright and ripe. Bitter foods can certainly be an acquired taste, and is totally dependent on how you prepare them.
The tender shoots and leaves as well as the roots are consumed for food and medicine in parts of Africa. There is a study indicating medicinal benefit of the fruit, as green extract, however, alway use caution and properly researched information, and if traditional healing or folklore, verify and validate carefully.
We’ve found one simple recipe to try and will search some more to test. Whatever turns out good, we’ll publish here.
Sauté onions, add garlic in olive oil. Stir for a couple minutes on medium heat. Add eggplant, continue to sautéing until onions are lightly browned. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you have recipes using this exotic vegetable, please share them in the comments, on the GardensAll Facebook page or via email.