Eggplants are an Old World solanaceous crop, valued for its taste as well as antioxidant and micronutrient contents. Three cultivated species are known: the Gboma eggplant (Solanum macrocarpon), the scarlet eggplant (S. aethiopicum) and the brinjal eggplant (S. melongena).
S. macrocarpon is native to tropical Africa. It is grown today for its leaves and fruits in West, East and Central Africa, Surinam and the Caribbean. S. aethiopicum is native to Africa as well, but it is now also cultivated in tropical South America and the Caribbean. The domestication of S. melongena probably took place in the area between India, Myanmar and China. The brinjal eggplant reached the Mediterranean basin between the 7th and 8th centuries. Today, S. melongena is the most important cultivated eggplant, widely grown in South Europe and Asia.
Genesys records about 6,500 eggplant germplasm accessions, with a third being landraces. Approximately 3,000 accessions are held by the World Vegetable Center, followed by the 1,000 accessions held in The Netherlands by the Centre for Genetic Resources and the University of Nijmegen.
The breeding objectives for eggplant are varied, including resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses, improved nutritional content, high yields and enhanced fruit quality.