Japanese eggplants are known for their long, slender fruit, with thin skin and few seeds.
The mild, delicately flavored flesh is less bitter than some of the varieties you typically find in the grocery store.
Some like to distinguish “Japanese eggplant” as a separate category of “Asian eggplant,” and quite often the two terms are used interchangeably to refer to the long, slender, thin-skinned varieties of this vegetable.
Many growers refer simply to “Asian type” eggplants when describing these varieties – and I’m going to follow their example.
Along with their distinctive shape and flavor, many of these varieties are early-maturing, bearing fruit just two months after transplanting.
And in general, these plants tend to be vigorous, growing up to four feet tall, and high-yielding – making them very attractive for the home gardener.
In this article I’ll be looking at the 21 different Asian eggplant varieties – some of which are Japanese, some of which are Chinese, some Indian, and some bred in the US.
Before we get started on our world tour, here’s an overview of what I’ll cover:
Dark Purple and Black Varieties
Asian eggplant with dark purple to black skin colors tend to originate primarily in Japan.
Here are 7 of my favorite dark skinned cultivars:
1. Black Egg
This Japanese heirloom variety produces round, egg-shaped fruits that are dark purple, almost black in color, with a black calyx.
Tender, 4- to 5-inch long fruit, with a mild, sweet flavor grow on compact, vigorous plants that mature to just 3-feet tall.
Ideal for container growing, ‘Black Egg’ matures in 60-65 days.
You can find seeds for ‘Black Egg’ in a variety of packet sizes at Eden Brothers.
2. Finger Fruit
‘Finger Fruit,’ also known as ‘Little Fingers,’ is an heirloom cultivar producing petite, dark purple eggplants that grow on green stems.
The glossy purple fruits of this open pollinated variety grow in clusters and have blunt ends.
They can be harvested when they are just 3-6 inches long – starting at 60 days from transplanting.
These tiny, slim eggplants are tender with thin skin and few seeds, and their flesh has a mildly sweet flavor.
‘Finger Fruit’ is available in packets of various sizes from Eden Brothers.
‘Ichiban’ is a Japanese hybrid that loves hot weather but will also thrive in cooler climates – and it bears fruit all the way through to the first autumn frost.
Its name means “best” in Japanese, and many gardeners agree that this is at the top of their Asian eggplant list!
‘Ichiban’ produces slim, purplish-black, 10-inch long fruits on its purple stems.
The fruits have thin skin with a delicate, sweet, and mild flavor, and a succulent texture.
Plants grow in an upright form, reaching 3-4 feet tall, and 2-3 feet wide at maturity.
They perform well in containers, are prolific and very early, bearing just 50-60 days after transplanting – with 12 fruits per plant, on average.
You can find ‘Ichiban’ plants in 4-inch pots from Bonnie Plants via Home Depot.
4. Kurume Long
Hailing from the city of Kurume in Japan’s Fukuoka Prefecture, ‘Kurume Long’ is an open pollinated cultivar that bears shiny, 9- to 10-inch long black fruit on black stems.
The mild, delicate fruits of ‘Kurume Long’ are excellent for making tempura or for pickling.
This cultivar is vigorous and matures very early – in just 60 days from transplanting.
‘Kurume Long’ seeds are available in packets of 0.5 grams from Kitazawa Seed Company via Amazon.
A popular Japanese cultivar, ‘Millionaire’ is an early maturing hybrid that produces shiny, black fruits that are 8-12 inches long and 2 inches wide, with dark purple calyxes.
‘Millionaire’ has virtually no seeds in its tender, mild flesh, and is delicious roasted or in shish kebabs.
Highly productive plants are upright and thrive in hot weather, bearing ripe fruit in just 50-60 days from transplanting.
‘Millionaire’ is available in packs of 100 or 1000 seeds from Mountain Valley Seed Company via True Leaf Market.
6. Orient Express
‘Orient Express’ is a high yielding, hybrid cultivar that will set fruit in both cool and hot weather.
Its glossy, black fruits grow to 8-10 inches long and have a delicate flavor, thin skin, and tender flesh.
‘Orient Express’ seeds are slow to germinate but the plant is fast-growing once it gets started.
This early maturing cultivar produces an abundant harvest in just 58 days from transplanting.
Plants will reach 24-30 inches tall and wide, making this variety a great option for container growing.
‘Orient Express’ is available in packets of 25 seeds from David’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.
A hybrid variety that holds up well to the heat, ‘Shikou’ bears dark purple, glossy, thin-skinned fruit that grows on purple stems.
With a name that means “supreme” in Japanese, this cultivar produces 6- to 8-inch long, elegant fruits that have very few seeds.
Tender, meaty, and with a rich, nutty flavor, ‘Shikou’ is ideal for adding to stir fries.
Fruits should be harvested when the skin is still shiny, starting at around 70-80 days after transplanting.
The semi-spineless plants mature to a modest 18-24 inches tall, making this variety ideal for growing in containers.
‘Shikou’ seeds are available in packets of various sizes from Javagado Land via Amazon.
8. Shoya Long
‘Shoya Long’ is a hybrid cultivar that is very popular in its native Japan, and bears exceptionally long fruits.
Its dark purple fruits on purple stems grow up to 14-16 inches long.
These long veggies are of fine quality, great for frying and for tempura.
Plants grow upright, producing high yields.
Ripe eggplants from this very early maturing cultivar can be harvested after just 60 days from transplanting.
‘Shoya Long’ is available in packets of 250 seeds from Hazzard’s Seeds via Amazon.
Bright Purple Varieties
Typically from China, the bright purple Asian eggplant varieties are just as tender and tasty as the dark purple ones.
Here’s a selection of 5 of the best bright purple cultivars:
9. Fengyuan Purple
An heirloom open pollinated variety from Taiwan, ‘Fengyuan Purple’ is a rare cultivar.
The long slender, cylindrical fruits can grow up to 12 inches long and are bright purple with a purple calyx.
The flesh of these fruits is creamy white, free from bitter compounds, and the skin is thin and delicate.
An early maturing variety, ‘Fengyuan Purple’ can be harvested after just 65 days.
10. Japanese Pickling
The longest Asian eggplant among my selection, the fruits of ‘Japanese Pickling’ can reach an astonishing 22-26 inches in length!
Bright to dark purple in color, these are long, thin, and slightly curved eggplants – measuring just 2 inches in diameter.
‘Japanese Pickling’ are sweet and mellow tasting with creamy, meaty flesh – and as their name suggests, they lend themselves perfectly to pickling.
A mid season cultivar, ‘Japanese Pickling’ has a good germination rate and comes to maturity 75-85 days from transplanting.
You can find 10 seeds for this variety available via Amazon.
11. Ping Tung Long
Very popular in Taiwan, ‘Ping Tung Long’ is an open-pollinated cultivar that bears fruit with bright purple skin and a green calyx.
Also known as ‘Ping Tung Elephant,’ this variety bears fruit that grow up to 18 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.
The long fruits of this cultivar are sweet and tender with no hint of bitterness – and will be ready to harvest in 65-70 days.
‘Ping Tung Long’ is available in packets of 50 seeds from David’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.
12. Purple Comet
An Asian type hybrid, ‘Purple Comet’ has neon-violet skin and stems that are green to purple.
‘Purple Comet’ produces fruits that are approximately 10 inches long and 2 inches wide – and are sweet and mild, with succulent, tender, white flesh.
They have few seeds, thin skin – and can be picked young without sacrificing any of their flavor.
Sturdy ‘Purple Comet’ plants have large foliage and large blooms, and come to maturity in 70 days from transplanting.
‘Purple Comet’ is available in packets of 25 seeds from Park Seed via Amazon.
13. Purple Shine
‘Purple Shine’ is a productive Chinese hybrid with shiny, purple skin – and is often white at the top, just below its purple calyx.
This variety bears long, slender fruits measuring 9-11 inches long and 1 1/2-2 inches wide.
Firm and seedless, these mild eggplants are great for veggie lasagna, or stir fried and served as a side dish.
Growing on tall, upright, spreading plants, this prolific cultivar will come to maturity in 65-70 days.
‘Purple Shine’ is available in packets of 50 seeds from David’s Garden Seeds via Amazon.
Pink and Lavender Varieties
These pastel cultivars of Asian type eggplants are worth trying – if for nothing other than their enchanting colors.
Here are four of my favorite pink and lavender cultivars:
14. Long Asian
With long purple fruits that have a sweet, succulent taste, with no hint of bitterness ‘Long Asian’ is an open-pollinated variety.
‘Long Asian’ bears tender and delicious fruits that grow to 8-10 inches long.
‘Long Asian’ fruits will be ready to harvest – and throw on the grill – in 60 days after transplanting.
You can find seeds in a variety of packet sizes available from Eden Brothers.
‘Machiaw’ is a hybrid variety that bears pale purple to deep pink fruit.
‘Machiaw’ was one of the winners for best Asian type eggplant in Purdue University’s 2008 Eggplant Variety Trial in Central Missouri.
This variety bears beautiful fruit that are tender and tasty, growing 10-12 inches long and 1-1 1/2 inches wide.
This early maturing cultivar is ready to harvest in just 60-70 days from transplanting.
‘Machiaw’ is available in packets of 25 seeds at Amazon.
16. Orient Charm
‘Orient Charm’ is a high-yielding hybrid that produces fruit in a range of shades from pale lavender to bright fluorescent pink.
Along with ‘Machiaw,’ this variety was one of the winners for best Asian type eggplant in Purdue University’s 2008 Eggplant Variety Trial in Central Missouri.
Growing on green stems, the fruits of ‘Orient Charm’ grow to about 9 inches long and 2 inches in diameter, and are similar in shape to ‘Orient Express.’
These delicately flavored fruits with very few seeds grow on strong, productive plants.
With this early maturing variety, you’ll have veggies ready to harvest in just 65 days from transplanting.
‘Orient Charm’ is available in packets of 25 seeds from Javagado Land via Amazon.
Green eggplants are popular throughout Asia where they seem to be just as widespread as purple varieties.
Here are five of the best green Asian type cultivars:
17. Bangladeshi Long
‘Bangladeshi Long’ is a prolific heirloom native to Bangladesh.
Its 8-inch long, slightly curved fruits are striking – they are a grayish green color with purple streaks.
These thin skinned veggies are never bitter and have a delicious, mild flavor.
They are perfect used in Indian cuisine, such as this spicy eggplant curry recipe on our sister site, Foodal.
The large, sturdy plants of ‘Bangladeshi Long’ reach 48 inches tall and bear fruit in 75-80 days after transplanting.
‘Choryoku’ is a Japanese hybrid bearing 12-inch long fruit with bright green skin and a green calyx.
The fruits of this cultivar grow long and straight with a firm texture, and are sweet and tasty – perfect for broiling or grilling.
Growing on vigorous, prolific plants, ‘Choryoku’ will come to maturity in 80 days.
‘Choryoku’ is available in packets of 50 seeds from Javagado Land via Amazon.
19. Green Knight
A hybrid variety, ‘Green Knight’ bears green-skinned fruit that reach 7-10 inches long – and are mild with few seeds and a meaty texture.
An early maturing variety, you’ll be harvesting the succulent fruit from these 34- to 36-inch plants in just 55-60 days.
You can find packets of 30 seeds, or 3 ‘Green Knight’ plants available at Burpee.
An Indian hybrid, ‘Hari’ has waxy green, thin skin and grows from green stems.
Fruits reach 7-10 inches long and have tender flesh with a mild flavor and no hint of bitterness.
An ultra early maturing variety, ‘Hari’ will be ready to harvest in just 50 days.
You’ll find ‘Hari’ in packets of 50 seeds from Seeds of India via Amazon.
21. Thai Long Green
Also known as ‘Green Elephant Tusk,’ and sometimes just ‘Thai Green,’ the fruits of this heirloom variety from Thailand have lovely, light lime green colored skin and green stems.
Fruits are 10-12 inches long, and have a mild, sweet flavor with very tender flesh.
The plants of this open-pollinated variety grow 2-3 feet tall and are drought resistant.
This long-season cultivar will be ready to harvest in 85 days.
‘Thai Long Green’ is available in packets of 200 seeds from Javagado Land via Amazon.
An Eggcellent Selection
Whether the Asian eggplant of your dreams is petite or serpentine, whether it’s a super productive hybrid or an heirloom with a history, whether it’s dark black, bright purple, pale pink, or lime green, with all these choices, you’ll be sure to find one to give a special place to in your backyard garden.
Which of these cultivars is tempting your taste buds? Have any other favorite Asian eggplant varieties? Let us know in the comments.
And for more information about growing eggplant in your garden, why not check out these guides next:
About Kristina Hicks-Hamblin
Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. Originally from the temperate suburbs of North Carolina, she enjoys discovering ways to meet a climate challenge. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer and a Building Biology Environmental Consultant, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina loves the challenges of dryland gardening and teaching others to use climate compatible gardening techniques, and she strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles. Kristina considers it a point of pride that she spends more money on seeds each year than she does on clothes.
“21 of the Best Japanese Eggplant Varieties” was first posted here