This State Grows More Eggplant Than Any Other In The US

Whether it's known to you as eggplant, aubergine, or guinea squash, the berry fruit, scientifically referred to as Solanum melongena, is a staple in cuisines around the world (via Brittanica). Being one of the most diverse fruiting plant families there are, eggplants come in a range of colors and sizes — from deep purple to white or striped; and from 4 ounces to 1 ½ pounds (via Daily Record) — their diversity matches in variety to the many ways in which the fruit is prepared around the globe.

French ratatouille, Italian eggplant parmigiana, Middle Eastern baba ghanoush, Greek moussaka, Chinese spicy garlic eggplant, and South Asian eggplant curries are just a few examples of eggplant's worldly reputation — but they're also quite beloved right here in the states. Still, the state in the U.S. that grows the most of them may not be the one you think.


According to Harvesting History, eggplants have been cultivated for thousands of years. Originally harvested in China and India, the fruit gained popularity when it was first introduced to people in Southern and Eastern Europe. However, when eggplants made their way to the Americas during the 1500s, they didn't catch on quite as quickly. This was because, as members of the Solanaceae family, eggplants are closely related to the belladonna, a plant that has been nicknamed the "deadly nightshade" for its poisonous berries (via Medical News Today).

For Americans, the eggplant and all of its family members — including tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers — were considered guilty by association. It wasn't until the latter part of the 19th century that the population started to embrace the fruit's extensive varieties. In the beginning, there was only one type of eggplant: The white eggplant; the color of it is where the Daily Record says it got its name. However, the fruit's variety was widened when hybridizers started to develop eggplants that wouldn't bruise during shipment, creating the large, deep purple eggplants that are commonly found today, along with the Indian, Italian, Japanese and Chinese varieties.

When and where eggplants grow

Being tropical plants, eggplants are very sensitive to cold weather — even more so than their infamously finicky cousins, tomatoes (via Agricultural Marketing Resource Center). For this reason, eggplants are typically grown as annuals, which Britannica defines as any plant whose life cycle is completed in one growing season. For eggplants, this is during the warm months of the year — making their peak season between July and October, according to Food Network.

Eggplants are widely grown across the United States. However, there are fewer than 7,000 total acres dedicated to the fruit's production each year in places like California, Florida, and Georgia. While yields vary depending on temperature and growing conditions, per the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, producers average about 25,000 pounds of eggplants per acre. That generates an average gross income of more than $17,500 per acre, providing more than enough to support the one pound of eggplant each U.S. citizens consumes on average every year, according to 2016 data from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The top eggplant grower

Nicknamed "The Garden State," New Jersey's reputation for its vast farmland can be legitimized in the state's production of eggplants alone. According to the State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey is the top producer of eggplants in the Unites States. Harvesting 849 acres each year (as of 2019), New Jersey stands ahead of other leading producers like California, Florida, and Georgia.

The state's well-draining sandy-loam soil — a gardening soil made up of sand, silt, and clay, according to Southern Mulch – and warm summers provide the perfect conditions for eggplants to thrive. With harvests reaching 900 or more bushels a day during peak season, New Jersey yields about 16 million pounds of eggplant, valued at $6 million (via New Jersey Spotlight News). With the majority grown in South New Jersey, most of the state's eggplants are shipped to the rest of the U.S. and Canada. Varieties include Italian, regular, Sicilian, Indian, striped, white, and fairy tale eggplants for all to enjoy in many different eggplant recipes.