almost ready for the harvest
The eggplant (Solanum melongena) is an annual herbaceous that belongs to the Solanaceae family. The plant measures from 0.7 to 1.0 meters in height, with several erect and thorny branches. It has a highly branched root system and can reach more than 90 centimeters in depth. The fruit is fleshy with numerous brown seeds and can be long, ovoid or round, and range from a very small (8 cm) to a large (30 cm long) size. The eggplant’s skin is smooth, consistent, and shiny and of various colors: purple, black, white, light green, brown or violet with vertical lines.
The plant’s fruit contains 90% water, low fat and is rich in fiber. A low-calorie content is among one of its qualities and is therefore recommended for weight-loss diets. Its vitamin content is poor compared to other fruits and vegetables; however, it is rich in vitamins A, C, B1 and B2. Another of its qualities is that it is a food rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Moreover, eggplant helps to eliminate free radicals present in the body, and is therefore an excellent antioxidant.
The eggplant is native to the tropical and sub-tropical zones of Southeast Asia. The oldest known data places it in India, nonetheless China is considered to be the dissemination center. Towards the year 1200 it was cultivated in Egypt, from where Arab traders took it to the Middle East. During the Middle Ages, it entered Europe through Moorish Spain from where its cultivation extended throughout the Mediterranean. The Spaniards introduced it to America after 1492, but its cultivation in this continent began in the 19th. century. Currently, eggplant is produced with commercial purposes in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of all the continents.
This plant grows in warm to temperate climates. The ideal temperature for germination is about 25 to 30 degrees Celsius. It demands a lot of light, requiring between 10 to 12 hours. Optimal relative humidity fluctuates between 50% and 65%. It is planted yearlong in lands with a pH level of 5.7–6.8 and prefers fertile and deep soils, provided with good drainage.
The main cultivated varieties descend from three sub-species of the Solanum genus: the esculentum, most belong to this variety; the insanum, with a reduced number of cultivated varieties; and the ovigerum, which only has an ornamental interest. Eggplant is classified according to the form of its fruit. The diversity of the types of eggplant has increased greatly during the last few years. These include the Marbled, with a rounded ovoid fruit, white marbled with purple or green skin and pulp that is almost white; the Globe with spherical form, dark purple, shiny skin and green pulp. Its average weight is around 250 and 290 grams. The Elongated is dark purple, shiny skin and green pulp. Its average weight ranges from 160 to 180 grams. The Spherical: round fruit, of dark purple, shiny and uniform skin and green pulp with holes. The average weight of a unit is 230 to 260 grams. There is also the Japanese: elongated and slender. The White: is small, ovoid to globe shape, with thin skin. The Mini-Japanese, which is small and elongated, with streaks of purple and violet. Finally, the Chinese, elongated, thin, and light purple in color.
Eggplant planting and production in the Dominican Republic
In the Dominican Republic, the most cultivated variety is known as the jira, criolla (local), or moradita (purple), with elongated or oblong fruit, violet to purple color, with or without broad whitish shreds. “Chinese eggplant” is cultivated for export purposes. In addition to being an export crop, this vegetable is a favorite for Dominican consumers, due to its diverse culinary uses.
During the last few years, the average area planted with eggplant in the country is approximately 1,258 hectares. It is produced in all regions of the Dominican Republic, although the largest production area is in the province of La Vega. Eighty percent of the area planted with eggplant is concentrated in the central, north central, northwestern and southwestern regions of the country. According to the latest data available from the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2012 the country had more than 1,195 hectares planted with eggplant, which produced about 525,800 quintals, an amount that has not varied greatly during the last 5 years. The eggplant is a part of the so-called “oriental vegetable”. These vegetables are characterized for having a broad acceptance in the international markets; therefore, the country has intensified its production for the purpose of exportation. So we see how from 2,624 tons exported in the year 2002, we went to about 6,400 tons in 2011, with a value of US$3.6 million. This is an area in which the Dominican Republic has great export potential. The introduction and greenhouse cultivation of oriental vegetables, which gained momentum in 2004, have contributed to the increase in production.