Jiló (Solanum gilo) is a type of eggplant popular in parts of Brazil. This plant is originally from Africa (Sękara, A. et. al. 2007) and was brought to Brazil with the slave trade. Jiló is also a staple in parts of Africa, where it is called garden egg in English and aubergine in French, among many other names in African dialects. This Solanacious vegetable resembles “traditional” or European eggplant, Solanum melongena, in growth habit; however, the fruit of jiló is much smaller and bitter. The Brazilian market values jiló for its bitterness.
There are two basic types of jiló found in Brazil. One is called comprido verde claro (translating from Portuguese to "long, light green" in English - Figure 1) and the other is called morro redondo (translating from Portuguese to "round" in English - Figure 2). Morro Redondo is considered to be more bitter than comprido verde claro. Jiló starts out green and turns orange-red as it matures (Figure 3); Brazilians will not traditionally use jiló when it turns color. (In our experience, African customers will buy both white and green garden egg that turns color/matures.)
Jiló is popular mostly in Southeastern Brazil, including the states of Minas Gerais (Figure 4), Espírito Santo, Goiás and Bahia (Figure 5). It is also found in markets in Rio De Janeiro (Figure 6) and São Paulo. Massachusetts is estimated to have the largest Brazilian population in the United States and a large percentage of this population is from states in Southeastern Brazil, especially the state of Minas Gerais. In Minas Gerais, the jiló type preferred is comprido verde claro; however, they will use morro redondo. In some other parts of Brazil jiló is only used as bird food.
In some African countries there is a preference for green garden egg, i.e. jiló, in addition to white types (Figure 7). We have also identified popularity of jiló and garden egg with people from Bhutan and Burundi living in Massachusetts (Figure 8).
Jiló is used several ways in Brazilian cuisine, including as an accompaniment in main dishes, in soups and fried. In Southeastern Brazil, it is common in bars and restaurants to use jiló as a way to take away the taste of strong alcoholic beverages (tira-gosto in Portuguese). This is considered a good alternative to other dishes that traditionally are used in bars, such as pork rinds (torresmo in Portuguese), sausages and sardines, all of which are normally fried in oil. In rural areas of Brazil, where it is also known as jinjilo, jiló is an ingredient in a tonic used as a home remedy for influenza, colds, and fevers (Kurozawa, 2007).
Jiló should be harvested shortly before it matures; as stated above, Brazlians will not accept Jiló that has turned color.
It is recommended to stake and trellis jiló due to the size of the plants (Figure 11, above) (Figure 13). Branches on plants not staked can break.
Post-Harvest and Packing
At the UMass Research Farm we wash both jiló and garden egg; however, eggplants can be packed without washing if they are not dirty. For jiló, both comprido verde claro and morro redondo, we use a traditional vegetbale washer, as shown in this video: Washing jiló in a vegetable washer at the UMass Research Farm in August, 2016. (Video by Frank Mangan). (The garden egg variety that we have grown in 2015 and 2016 is too small for the vegetable washer - the fruit falls through the brushes.)
We pack jiló in 1/2 bushel waxed boxes, which will fit 16 lbs. of fruit (Figure 14). One reason not to use a larger box, commonly used with European eggplant, is due to the high price for jiló. When jiló first comes into markets in late July/early August in New England the wholesale price can be as high as $35/1/2 bushel ($2.20/lbs.). A bushel 1/9 case would be over $70 and would create "sticker shock".
There have been multiple sources of jiló seed since we first started working with this crop in 2003, including two “larger” companies that carried it in the past; however, neither offers jiló as of 2015. There are other smaller seed companies that have had jiló seed over the years; however, the cost per seed is very high since it is sold in small amounts. In addition, some of the seed sold by some companies as jiló does not appear be in fact jiló.
The best way to locate a seed company with jiló is to do a search online. You can try the following words in searchers:
1. “jiló” combined with “seed”
2. “Solanum gilo” combined with “seed” (Solanum gilo is the genus and species of jiló)
You will most likely find “hits” with sites that have jiló seed for sale. You than want to make sure that the seed that a particular company has is in fact jiló. It is recommended to contact the seed company to get assurances that the plant is in fact jiló.
Note: It is illegal to bring seed, or any plant part, into the continental US without a permit from USDA, specifically APHIS. This is due to the concern of importing invasive species and/or plant diseases/insects that are not currently found in the US. This means that you cannot buy seed from a company located outside of the US.
In 2014, we evaluated hybrid and open-pollinated varieties of jiló from Brazil at the UMass Research Farm, some of which had higher yields than varieties being grown in Massachusetts, but we are unable to bring these varieties into the United States in volume for commercial production due to trade complications between our two countries.
Farmers that have jiló save seed from one season to the next, which is easy to do. So, once you find jiló make sure you save seed for the next season.
Marketing and Pricing
Jiló is very popular among Brazilians from certain regions of this country, as described above. As is the case with any new crop that a farmer wants to grow, it is important to make sure that there is a viable market for it BEFORE planting it.
In Massachusetts, harvest begins in mid-late July and the price is quite high with the first harvests, as high as $2.50/lbs. wholesale and $5.99/lbs. retail (Figure 15). The majority of jiló grown in Massachusetts is sold wholesale. Some growers do sell it at farmers’ markets (Figure 16).
The UMass Amherst Nutrition Education Team has developed recipes using jiló in English, Spanish and Portuguese
It is recommended to use promotional activities to market jiló using Portuguese and Brazilian media. In Massachusetts, we have used multiple media outlets to promote jiló and other crops popular among Brazilian grown in our state. These include:
- Commercials on the cable station Rede Globo Internacional. This cable station is produced in Brazil and is available to Brazilians living in the United States. A very high percentage of Brazilians living in the US get Rede Globo Internacional in their homes and it plays in Brazilian stores and restaurants. In Massachusetts, a 30 second commercial was produced on Rede Globo Internacional to promote jiló and other crops popular among Brazil and grown in Massachusetts. Over 500 people called after the commercial ran to find out how they could buy these crops.
- We have also reached out to Brazilian media that has been very interested in doing complimentary articles about our work which has promoted sales Here are five articles promoting our work in Brazilian newspapers in the United States: (Figure 17) (Figure 18) (Figure 19) (Figure 20) (Figure 21)
- There are Brazilian radio stations in Massachusetts that we have paid to do short spots on their programs to promote Brazilian crops. Figure 1
Kurozawa C. 2007. Glossário Globo Rural. Glossário Globo Rural Available in: http://globoruraltv.globo.com/GRural/0,27062,LTP0-4373-0-L-J,00. Accessed in May 17, 2007.
Mangan, F. R. Mendonça, M. Moreira. S. Nunes, F. Finger, Z. Barros, H. Galvão, G. Almeida, and M. Anderson. 2007. Production and marketing of vegetables for the ethnic markets in the United States. Revista Horticultura Brasileira. Horticultura Brasileira 26: 006-014.
Mendonca, Raquel U. de, M. Moreira, F. Mangan, and M. Moreira. 2006. Evaluation of eggplant (Solanum spp.) varieties for ethnic groups in the United States. Proceedings of the InterAmercian Society for Tropical Horticulture. Vol. 49. pp. 38-39.
Sękara, A., S. Cebula, and E. Kunicki. 2007. Cultivated eggplants – origin, breeding objectives and genetic resources, a review. Folia Horticulturae. 19/1, 2007, 97-114.