I've developed an amazing fondness for eggplant. The colors and shapes and sizes always captivated me, and the ease of growing them (once I realized how much they love settling into 5 gallon containers, and once they outgrow the pesky flea beetles) is now matched by our love of their consumption. To think, I once considered eggplant as slimy, bitter, nasty vegetables best avoided. The differences between the mishandled and often overripe grocery store specimens and the fresh examples picked and used right off of the plant are astounding.
Here is what I am growing, and why. A few years ago I grew out seeds of a non-hybrid white variety named Casper. One of the seedlings had a dark purple stem, and it produced a lovely medium sized black purple eggplant, clearly an F1 hybrid between Casper and ????. Seed saved from that black fruited hybrid of Casper gave an amazing, lovely array of results - whites, greens, blushes, blacks, lavenders - the cross must have been quite wide because all sorts of recessive color traits popped out. Over time, I worked with a few that were quite unusual. One produces tear drop shaped light green fruit with pale purple, irregular patches. I asked my wife some help when naming it; her remarks on the color of Mardi Gras beads produced the winner - and I am growing Mardi Gras this year. Another selection was pale green, and I called it Green Ghost. I am growing 2 of them, due to differing leaf shape and vein coloration - clearly, instability persists in this line (which makes it all the more fun!).
Years ago I also started working with seed saved from an excellent hybrid, Orient Express. Over the years I ended up selecting and naming three distinct types - Midnight Lightning, possessing very dark green foliage heavily brushed with purple and producing slender black purple fruit; Skinny Twilight, also slender, but of a more deep brownish purple color and with green leaves heavily veined with dark purple, and Twilight Lightning, the most slender of all, with fruit of white with lavender streaks and leaf color of a lighter green, with more pale vein coloration. Again, some variation persists, so I am growing two Skinny Twilight and three Twilight Lightning.
Aside from my experimental, in-development varieties are some old favorite standards I grow because of our love for them, and, as a bonus, for fresh seeds. Among these are Rosita, Rosa Bianca, Listada di Gandia (the most beautiful of all eggplant in my opinion), Snow Globe (a white I created from the hybrid Cloud Nine), Antigua (runner up in beauty to Listada), and the old classic heirloom New York Spineless Improved - the perfect Eggplant Parmesan, big slab eggplant.
Here are a set of pictures showing differing foliage color - look particularly at the coloring of the leaf veins.
Top row: Mardi Gras, Rosita, Rosa Bianca
Second row: Skinny Twilight (1), Green Ghost (1), Twilight Lightning (1)