The plant and the production of Aubergines
The plant of aubergines is a herbaceous annual plant, probably native to the hot regions of India and China, and typical of the Mediterranean basin as it prefers hot and temperate climes to grow.
To grow, the plant of aubergines needs quite hot temperatures both during the day and the night (the perfect temperature should be of 15-16°C during the night and 22-26°C during the day, never exceeding 30-32 °C): in fact, the plant of aubergines suffers cold temperatures and for this reason it must not be cultivated with temperatures lower than 9-10°C.
The aubergine is a fruit and vegetable product that has an upright stem, rigid and branched, slightly spiny that can reach up to 80cm. Leaves of the plant of aubergines are large, lobed and bright green, colour given by chlorophyll, which increases as the leaf enlarges, and therefore becomes darker.
Flowers produced by the plant of aubergines are small and spiny and can be violet or white: they have a bell-shaped corolla with 5 stamens, with yellow anthers that blossom between June and September. The more traditional varieties of aubergines have hermaphrodite and single flowers, that can self-pollinate or pollinate through insects. Still today, with the genetic improvements of plants, there are varieties of aubergines with polyflorous inflorescences.
Aubergines are not easy to cultivate and need a soil rich in manure and well drained. As mentioned above, this type of plant is not afraid by the warmth of sun, as it is a typical Mediterranean fruit and vegetable product that needs a lot of water above all while the berries are growing: the term berry is referred to the fruits of this plant, therefore the aubergines that we all know.
If the soil is not well irrigated, the plant of aubergines produces fruits that do not reach the right size and therefore have a too bitter and spicy taste, apart from having a stringy flesh; a regular irrigation permits a good production of aubergines both from a quality and quantity point of view.
The plant of aubergines has tapering roots and therefore needs a quite deep soil: the seedling must be planted at a minimum distance of 40-50 cm.
The fruit or berry of the plant of aubergines is quite large and fleshy and can have, according to the variety of aubergines cultivated, different shapes and colours. Aubergines can in fact be round, elongated, ovoid and their colour can be brown-violet, pinkish or white. The surface (skin) of aubergines can be smooth, bright or with ribs.
The fruit or berry (the aubergine) is linked to the plant through a long spiny petiole, sometimes ligneous, which ends with the calyx that envelopes the upper part of the aubergine.
The flesh of this fruit and vegetable product is firm and ivory, with a bitterish taste that disappears when the aubergine has been sliced and salted, and has flat seeds.
The quantity of spines on the petiole and the calyx (upper part of the aubergine ), and of of the seeds in the flesh, changes according to the variety of aubergines.
Aubergines must be harvested when the skin is still bright, otherwise they risk to have a too bitter taste; it is necessary to use a knife or scissors when harvesting, as the aubergine is a vegetable that must be harvested with the petiole, so that this fruit and vegetable product keeps its freshness for a longer time.
Aubergines can be eaten within 3-4 days after the harvest, keeping them in the refrigerator special drawer for vegetables.
The aubergine is a fruit and vegetable product largely produced all over the world, but mainly in the Mediterranean areas, because of its limited resistance to low temperatures: that of aubergines is in fact a very exigent plant as to climate, that suffers a lot sudden changes in temperatures, which can compromise its development.
Among the producers of aubergines, the major producer of aubergines on the world fruit and vegetable market is China that produces each year more than 16 million tons of this fresh fruit and vegetable product, about 60% of the world cultivation of this vegetable. China is followed by India, with about 30% of the world production of aubergines and by Turkey, with an annual production around 5% of the the world production of aubergines (data 2009).
In Europe, instead, major producers of aubergines are Spain, the Netherlands, Italy (with an annual production of aubergines of more than 3 million quintals, above all in Sicily) and Greece.
The preventions done by producers of aubergines, retailers of aubergines, fruit and vegetable companies that produce organic aubergines, to improve the cultivation and to have therefore a larger production of aubergines in the fruit and vegetable sector, consist in different techniques, among which there are an adequate rotation among the different fruit and vegetable cultivations (fresh vegetables are alternated), in avoiding water stagnation and too thick aubergines' seeding, regular and constant irrigations of the soils assigned to the production of aubergines and to the production of organic aubergines, the elimination of residuals of infected fruit and vegetable products and finally nitrogenous manures or manures done with copper products (not for companies that produce organic aubergines, for which treatments with chemical substances are forbidden by certification regulations of the European Union).
In recent years the production of aubergines in many European countries has stayed quite steady, while in the Netherlands, and in Spain the production of this fruit and vegetable product has increased more and therefore have increased, even though unevenly, also exports of aubergines from these countries and imports in EU-member countries, such as Germany (main country to which are exported Dutch aubergines), Great Britain (second country to which has increased the import of aubergines, mainly from Spain) and Sweden.
Exports and imports of aubergines have suffered sudden changes in the last decade: there has been a great increase of exports mainly for aubergines produced in the Netherlads from 2001 to 2007, when this country saw a decrease in the requests for exports of aubergines that instead increased again already in the first months of 2010.
At the beginning of 2011 there was a further increase of the exports of aubergines, mainly thanks to Spain, other great country producer of aubergines that saw a large increase of the exports of this vegetable.
The imports of aubergines in non-EU countries are still limited (USA and Canada), even though it seems that the market is moving toward the import of this fresh vegetable and therefore the import of aubergines is slightly increasing.