“eggplant, aubergine.” Solanum melogena L. of the Solanaceae family. i. The plant.  ii. Uses of cooking.


BĀDENJĀN “eggplant, aubergine.”

i. The plant.

ii. Uses in cooking.


i. The Plant

Bādenjān (or bādemjān), the eggplant or aubergine, Solanum melogena L. of the Solanaceae family. Persian terms which perhaps denote particular varieties of the eggplant, e.g., kahparak (Borhān-e qāṭeʿ; Farhang-e Nafīsī), kahlam (Borhān-e qāṭeʿ; Steingass), and some borrowed Arabic terms, e.g., ʿanab (Vullers; Farhang-e Nafīsī; Steingass), majd (Steingass; ʿĪsā Bey) which in both Persian and Arabic also means mandrake, wajd (Abū Ḥanīfa; Steingass; ʿĪsā Bey), and ḥadaq (Bīrūnī, p. 69; Abū Ḥanīfa, pp. 21, 66) from the Arabic root ḥdq signifying “to be round.” Bādenjān-e barrī (wild eggplant) is the name given to the Indian plant, Solanum xanthocarpum Schradl. and Wendl.

Botanical aspects. The species Solanum melongena L. has numerous varieties, and is capable of being crossed with other Indian species of Solanum, particularly Solanum incanum L. to which it is closely related, and also, in certain conditions, with Solanum indicum L. and Solanum xanthocarpum Schradl. and Wendl., with which it produces fertile hybrids (Choudhury in Simmonds). This raises the question whether all the species are really distinct.

History and geography of eggplant use. The plant is native to South Asia and was domesticated in India. It was brought to the Iranian lands at a very early but indeterminable date. In ancient times Iranian and Arab sailors carried it to East Africa, as shown by the presence of a number of specific terms for it in Ethiopia. It did not reach the Eastern Mediterranean lands, however, until a relatively late period, probably after the Arab conquest of Iran (Chodury, ibid.). The conquering Turks got to know the plant in Iran. The spread of the word bādenjān can be traced in the Eastern Turkish patingen, Turkish and Russian patinjan, Georgian badnjan, Astrakhan Tatar badarjan or badijan, and westward in some European languages. In Christian western Europe, however, with the exception of parts of Spain and southern Italy which had once been under Moslem rule, the eggplant only became known after the Renaissance.

Cultivation. Though native to tropical regions where it is perennial, the eggplant can accommodate itself to colder climates where it becomes annual. This facility explains why so many varieties of the species Solanum melongena L. are found in Iran. These have fruit which ranges in color from a more or less deep purple to a bright yellow almost like egg yolk, which may be long, round, or ovoid in shape and from ca. 10 to ca. 40 cm long. Although the medieval Iranian botanists have left little information on these matters, it may be taken for certain that the dark purple eggplant was widely cultivated in the 3rd/9th century because Rāzī uses its color as a reference in the chapter on dental diseases in his Ketāb al-ḥāwī fi’l-ṭebb (III, pp. 94, 137).

Writing at the end of the 6th/12th century, the Andalusian botanist Ebn al-ʿAwwām states in his Ketāb al-felāḥa, on the authority of Abu’l-Ḵayr Ešbīlī, that four varieties were cultivated: the Egyptian with white fruit, the Syrian with purple fruit, a dark red variety found at Seville, and a more brown-colored variety found at Cordoba. He then quotes a passage from Ebn Waḥšīya’s book on Nabataean agriculture (written or compiled probably in the 3rd/9th century) in which six varieties are noted, but he gives no further particulars. He mentions spring fruit and autumn fruit, but only with the qualification that they ought not to be eaten, presumably because they would not be fully ripe; it may therefore be surmised that in warm temperate regions planting or flowering took place twice a year, in January-February and in August. Ebn al-ʿAwwām explains in detail the method of cultivation, which required plenty of water to make the fruit more juicy and less bitter, though the plant could tolerate poor soils. This description tallies with the forms of eggplant cultivation found in Iran. Its importance in Iran is confirmed by Abu’l-Fażl ʿAllāmī, who states in his work the Āʾīn-e akbarī (I, p. 72) that “this vegetable is on sale in the markets in Iran all the year round and in such abundance that it is sold for 1.5 dām per sīr” (75 grams—a low price for those days).

Health aspects. All the leading medieval Iranian writers on medicine and botany urge caution in use of the eggplant. Special steps must be taken to avert harmful effects of its acidity and bitterness. It must only be eaten when ripe and cooked (Rāzī, De simplicibus; Māsargūya, cited by Ebn Sīnā, Qānūn II; Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-ṣaydana fi’l-ṭebb; Ebn al-Bayṭār, Ketāb al-jāmeʿ le’l-mofradāt). These writers consider the eggplant to be a cause of heat and dryness of the second degree. Its harmful effects are not only internal but also external; it makes the complexion swarthy or sallow, gives rise to pimples on the face, causes ophthalmia, ulcers, impetigo, leprosy, and elephantiasis, aggravates hemorrhoids, etc. Internally it causes constriction and blockage, making the blood become thick and black, and giving rise to insomnia, epilepsy, enlargement of the liver, and excess of black bile with resultant depression. But if the salt in it is removed or if it is cooked with oil or vinegar, it acquires beneficial qualities, as it then neutralizes the bile and is useful in the treatment of ear diseases (Edrīsī, cited by Ebn al-Bayṭār, Ar. ed., I, p. 80; tr., I, p. 191 ), hemorrhoids, and nausea. Eggplant seeds are still used at Tehran as an expectorant for relief of asthma and catarrh (Hooper, p. 173).

In popular belief likewise, the eggplant is considered rather dangerous. When washing a fruit to remove the salt, a cook in Tehran will say that the poison must be taken out. From Ebn Waḥšīya (quoted by Ebn al-ʿAwwām) we have an amusing account of notions held about this plant at the time when it first became known in the Eastern Mediterranean lands. Fantastic tales were then told to the effect that it would vanish and reappear 3,000 years later under the influence of the moon and the stars.

Etymology of bādenjān. Persian bādenjān is an early loan from the Pali vātingana (Turner), as evidenced by the numerous dialect forms of the word, e.g., bāḏenjān (Golius in Mesgnien-Meninski), bādengān, bādeljān, bādlejān, and popular pātlejān (Mesgnien-Meninski), badenjūn in Yarani (Christensen, 1930, p. 286), pātešgā, pātengā (Farhang-e Nafīsī; Steingass), våyæmjun Farīzandi (Christensen, 1930, p. 286), väŋgūn in Semnāni, and vaŋgum in Sangesari (Christensen, 1935, p. 182).



Abu’l-Fażl ʿAllāmī, Āʾīn-e akbarī, ed. Blochmann, I, p. 72; tr. Blochmann and Jarret, I, p. 67.

Abū Ḥanīfa Dīnavarī, Ketāb al-nabāt, ed. B. Lewin, The Book of Plants of Abû Hanîfa al-Dînawarî. Parts of the Alphabetical Section, Uppsala, 1953, pp. 21, 66.

Bīrūnī, Ketāb al-ṣaydana fi’l-ṭebb, ed. and tr. Ḥakīm Moḥammad Saʿīd, Karachi, 1973, p. 69.

A. Christensen, Contributions à la dialectologie iranienne, 2 vols., Copenhagen, 1930, 1935.

Ebn al-ʿAwwām, Ketāb al-falāḥa, tr. J. Clément-Mullet, Paris, 2 vols., 1846-67, II, pp. 236-41.

Ebn-al-Bayṭār, Ketāb al-jāmeʿ le’l-mofradāt, 4 bks. in 2 vols., Cairo, 1974-75; tr. L. Leclerc, 3 vols., Le traité des simples, Paris, 1877-83, I, p. 191.

Ebn Sīnā, al-Qānūn fi’l-ṭebb, 3 vols., Baghdad, I, p. 272.

Farhang-e Nafīsī, Tehran, 4 vols., 1317-18 Š./1938-39.

A. G. Haudricourt and L. Hedin, L’homme et les plantes cultivées, Paris, 1934, pp. 142, 151.

D. Hooper, Plants and Drugs of Iran and Iraq, Chicago, 1937, p. 173.

A. Isa Bey, Dictionnaire des noms de plantes, Cairo, 1930.

F. Mesgnien-Meninski, Lexicon Arabico-Persico-Turcico, 4 vols., Vienna, 1780.

Rāzī, Ketāb al-ḥāwī fi’l-ṭebb, 17 vols., Hyderabad, 1955-64, III, pp. 94, 137.

Idem, De simplicibus, Argentorati (Strasburg), 1531, p. 3.

N. W. Simmonds, ed., Evolution of Crop Plants, New York, 1976.

F. Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, 1st ed., London, 1892.

R. L. Turner, A Comparative Dictionary of Indo-Aryan Languages, 2 vols., London, 1965.

I. A. Vullers, Lexicon Persico-Latinum, 3 vols., 1864.

A. M. Watson, Agriculture Innovation in Early Islamic World, London and New York, 1983.

(F. Aubaile-Sallenave)


ii. Uses in Cooking

Eggplant has been used in Persian cuisine in a variety of ways: as a basic ingredient of appetizers (mazas) served before meals or with drinks, in main courses, and pickled in vinegar. One of the first references to the culinary aspects of the plant occurs in a medieval Persian medical treatise, which describes its medicinal value and methods of preparation (E. Jorjānī, Ḏaḵīra-ye ḵᵛārazmšāhī, ed. J. Moṣṭafawī, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973, III/1, pp. 122, 154).

Two kinds of eggplants are common in Iran: the conventional bādenjān-e rasmī, which is long and thin, and the more ample dolmaʾī, which was imported from abroad. In Persian cuisine, choice eggplants are straight, long, firm, and black. Eggplants are among the foods that are preserved and stored for winter in Iranian homes (qorma-ye bādenjān). Selected in the last month of summer when they are most abundant, eggplants are preserved in two ways: 1. After peeling, they are cut, salted, and left to “sweat,” thereby losing their biliousness (zardāb, talḵāb, sawdāʾ); then they are hung on a line to dehydrate in the sun (the dried eggplants are rehydrated twenty-four hours before use); 2. the peeled eggplants are browned in a great deal of oil, placed in a copper pot, and then covered with a thick layer of hot oil which congeals to seal them.

In Persian cuisine, unlike that of Turkey, Greece, and the countries of North Africa, eggplants are cooked peeled and generally seasoned with cinnamon or turmeric, the latter being more to Iranian taste. Most eggplant dishes are classified nānḵᵛorešī (eaten with bread) and served as appetizers consumed with alcoholic beverages.

An early eggplant dish mentioned by the 8th/14th-century poet Bosḥāq Aṭʿema is būrānī-e bādenjān, chopped eggplant sautéed with onions and turmeric, slowly cooked, and then mixed with yogurt (Āšpaz-bāšī, Sofra-ye aṭʿema, p. 46; Bosḥāq Aṭʿema, Dīvān, ed. Mīrzā Ḥabīb Šīrāzī, Istanbul, 1303/1885-86, p. 104). Popular in Iranian cuisine is the combination of kašk (condensed whey) and eggplant, which is found in the dish āš-e kašk o bādenjān, layered sautéed eggplant, grilled onions, and red beans covered by whey seasoned with turmeric (Mosīū Rīšahr Khan, Ṭabbāḵī, p. 27). A variant of the ubiquitous Persian stew and soup āb-gūšt contains eggplant, meat, ḡūra (unripe grapes), potatoes, tomatoes, and split peas. Similarly, a variety of kūkū, the traditional Persian vegetable soufflé, kūkū-ye bādenjān, calls for mashed, grilled eggplant, eggs, parsley, walnuts, and onions (M. R. Ghanoonparvar, Persian Cuisine, Lexington, 1982, I, p. 134). Another traditional recipe, māst o bādenjān, which combines eggplant, yogurt, and dry mint, is called nāzḵātūn by Tehranis (cf. Ghanoonparvar, Persian Cuisine II, p. 150, whose recipe calls for pomegranate juice). In Persian stews (ḵᵛorešes), eggplant is cooked with chicken and ḡūra or pomegranate juice in a dish called mosammā-ye (or mosamman-e) bādenjān (Āšpazbāšī, Sofra-ye aṭʿema, pp. 23-24; Farhang-e fārsī III, p. 4, 119) and with lamb in ḵᵛoreš-e bādenjān (N. Ramazani, Persian Cooking, n.p., 1974, p. 138). Among other dishes prepared with eggplants are: āš-e darhamjūš, kotla-ye bādenjān (cutlet of bādenjān), fesenjān-e bādenjān, yaḵnī-e bādenjān, bādenjān-e sorḵ-karda, ḥalīm(-e) bādenjān, kašk o bādenjān, eškana-ye bādenjān. The introduction of the ampler American bādenjān has allowed cooks to prepare such stuffed eggplant dishes as dolma-ye bādenjān (Ramazani, Persian Cooking, pp. 50-51).

Eggplants also figure in the regional cooking of Iran. Bādenjān-polow, which combines a paste of chopped, sautéed eggplant, chopped meat, and assorted spices with white rice, is prepared mainly in Fārs and Kermān. Bādenjān-e qāsemī or mīrzā qāsemī, a casserole of grilled eggplants, garlic, tomatoes, and eggs, is a specialty of northern Iran (Ghanoonparvar, Persian Cuisine I, p. 140).

The rise of the domestic canning and jarring industry during the last two decades in Iran, has added to the number of preserved eggplant products on the market. Consumers can purchase an eggplant preserve made from bādenjān-e rasmī, heavy syrup, cloves, and cardamom. Also widely available is an array of pickled eggplant and vegetable preparations.



Given in the text. See also Ḥājī Moḥammad-ʿAlī Bāvaṛčī, Kār-nāma dar bāb-e ṭabbāḵī o ṣaṇʿat-e ān, in Āšpazī dar dawra-ye ṣafawī, ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, pp. 83, 85, 86, 156, 157, 238.

Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Āšpazbāšī, Sofra-ye aṭʿema, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 20, 29, 30-31, 33, 39, 40, 42, 44, 53, 54, 57, 60, 61, 66.

Dastūr-e ṭabbāḵī o tadbīr-e manzel barā-ye dabīrestānhā-ye doḵtarān, Tehran, 1331 Š./1952, pp. 44, 49, 50, 53, 76, 77, 107, 117, 139, 144, 167.

Mosīū Rīšahr Khan Moʾaddeb-al-Molk, Ṭabḵ-e īrānī o farangī o šīrīnpazī, 4th ed., Tehran, 1311 Š./1933, pp. 28, 35, 54, 55, 70, 76, 101, 102, 123.

B. Bāmdād, Ṭabbāḵī-e īrānī,farangī,torkī, Tehran, 1312 Š./1933, pp. 9, 17, 129, 130.

(F. Aubaile-Sallenave, ʿE. Elāhī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1988

Last Updated: August 19, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 4, pp. 366-368