Eggplant

Revised July 2015 by Linda Naeve

Introduction

Eggplant are members of the same plant family as tomatoes and peppers (Solanaceae family) and cultural practices employed in eggplant production are similar to those crops. A native of the tropics, eggplant are warm-season plants that are more vulnerable to cold temperatures than tomatoes. A large selection of varieties makes eggplants available in several colors (for example, purplish black, red, white and variegated) and shapes (for example, egg-shaped, elongated and round). Most commercial varieties in the U.S. are purplish black in color and usually oval or teardrop in shape. Less commonly produced varieties include Asian eggplants, which tend to be long and slender, and baby, or miniature, eggplants.

U.S. per capita consumption of eggplant was approximately 0.9 pounds in 2012 (ERS 2013). Nutritionally, eggplant is low in fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It contains relatively low amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals, such as B1, B6, folate, copper, manganese, potassium and one cup of the skin and flesh provides approximately 10 percent of the daily value of fiber.

Marketing

About 98 percent of the eggplant grown in the U.S. is produced for the fresh market, with the remainder used for processed products such as frozen entrees and specialty dips and appetizers (Outlook 2012).

Production

Eggplant is a widely grown specialty vegetable in the United States. Although the USDA has not collected complete domestic production statistics for eggplant since 2001, the 2012 Census of Agriculture (2013) reports that eggplant was harvested on 3,400 farms in 2012, an increase of over 560 farms since 2007. However, acreage declined 17% in those five years. The leading states in eggplant production are New Jersey, California, and New York. An estimated 156.3 million pounds of eggplants were grown in the United States in 2012 (Yearbook ERS 2013). Production yields vary around the country with producers averaging approximately 20,000 pounds per acre.

Prices

Prices for eggplant vary depending on the type and season. A carton (approximately 25 pounds) averaged $23.50 in July 2015 (USDA AMS).

Financials:

Based on most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value per acre is approximately $18,800. The costs of production of eggplant vary depending the production location. It is labor-intensive, especially for harvest and post-harvest handling and packaging.

Sources:

USDA ERS: Vegetable ad Pulses Data

Chicago Terminal Market Prices (USDA AMS)

Vegetables, Potatoes, and Melons Harvested for Sale: 2007 and 2012 Census of Agriculture, (NASS, USDA, 2013)

 Commercial Eggplant Production,(from 2015 Commercial Vegetable Production Recommendations for New Jersey) 

Production Practices and Sample Costs to Produce Eggplant (University of California, UC Small Farm Program, 1997)

National Retail Report: Fruits and Vegetables: Weekly Advertised Prices for Fruits and Vegetables at Major Retail Supermarket Outlets