Contrary to its intriguing name, the Golden Egg tree has nothing to do with a goose. Nor is it directly linked to Easter celebrations, although it could look very appropriate as an ornamental display on a festive Easter table. It is usually available as a potted plant of about 10 inches high, and is easy to accommodate indoors.
The Golden Egg tree (Solanum melongena) is known by several other common names. They include guinea squash (England), aubergine (France), berinjela (Brazil, Portugal), berenjena (Spanish-speaking territories) and terong (Indonesia).
The Golden Egg tree is classified as an ornamental eggplant. It is part of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, in the company of potatoes, tomatoes and sweet peppers. Solanum melongena are sometimes called “mad apples,” while “love apples” describes tomatoes, reflecting the family association between the eggplant and the tomato.
Edible vs Inedible
As its name suggests, the fruits of the Golden Egg tree are shaped like eggs. They start out white, then begin to turn a golden yellow color as the fruit ripens. There is general disagreement as to whether or not the fruit is edible. Most sources indicate that it is edible, but that it has a bitter taste. The raw fruit can be baked, fried, grilled or braised and served as a vegetable, in curry or sauce.
Historically, the Golden Egg tree is thought to originate from a tropical old world plant with a dark purple skin. This type of eggplant existed in China around 600 B.C.E.. A rough translation of its name is “Malayan purple melon.” This suggests that the original eggplant was native to Peninsular Malaysia. The golden egg tree’s white fruit indicates that it is one of several cultivated varieties of the original plant. Another variety is called Solanum ovigerum.
It is possible to buy Solanum ovigerum seeds at various online websites. Once the seeds are sown under the required conditions, the promise is an ornamental egg plant that will flourish all summer long. In addition to its “eggs,” the plant usually displays lovely lilac flowers with yellow stamens.
The White Eggplant (Solanum melongena esculentum) is among the plants highlighted at Monticello, Virginia, and available for sale at Monticello.org.. Thomas Jefferson (1743 to 1826) grew both the white and the purple varieties at Monticello around 1812. American seed catalogs included the white eggplant by 1825. Today, the non-profit Thomas Jefferson Foundation owns and operates Monticello, with the dual goals of preservation and education.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants (CHP) was founded in 1987 to collect, preserve and distribute historic varieties of plants. This initiative reflects Jefferson’s interest in horticulture and documents the existence of selected 19th century plants in America.