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Solanum melongena, aubergine

Summary

This popular Mediterranean vegetable is a close relative of the deadly nightshade and must never be served raw.

Family

Solanaceae

Meaning of the Name

Solanum

Possibly from the Latin ‘solan’, ‘soil’ or ‘land’ with the suffix ‘an’, ‘belonging to’.

Fred de Vries, who writes for a Dutch newspaper about poison plants (his columns can be found here) has pointed out that some sources connect Solanum with the Latin for 'solace' or 'comfort' said to be a reference to the narcotic properties.

Randal H Alcock in his 1876 'Botanical Names for English Readers' says of 'Solanum' 'According to some altered from L. solamen, comfort, relief or solace; from the sedative qualities of some of the species. This is doubtful.' (My emphasis) But he doesn't offer any justification for saying this is doubtful nor does he offer an alternative explanation.

I have also seen it mentioned that the name comes, simply, from 'sol' 'sun' and these are plants of the sun but that seems an unusual way to name nightshades.

melongena
Possibly from ‘Melo’, the River Nile and ‘genus’, ‘birth’ meaning the plant was first found along the Nile.

Solanum Melongena, aubergine

Solanum melongena, aubergine

Common Names and Synonyms

aubergine, egg plant, mad apple

How Poisonous, How Harmful?

Contains solanine, an alkaloid glycoside. It increases bodily secretions and leads to vomiting and convulsions. The raw fruit is poisonous so aubergine must always be well cooked.

Little is known about the concentration of toxins in the fruit. Quite a lot of effort has been put into modifying aubergines so that it is no longer to soak them before cooking and that work may also have changed the toxicity.

Incidents

No reported incidents of poisoning by ingestion but it appears to have been known to cause contact dermatitis in some people.

Folklore and Facts

The Mambila people of the Cameroon Nigerian border believe God held a race between a lizard and a chameleon to decide if men should die. During the race the lizard stopped to eat some egg plants and, as a result, the chameleon won so God did not abolish death.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.

 

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Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree