That Americans call this vegetable "eggplant" should tip us off that the first varieties brought to the colonies were not large and purple. According to William Woys Weaver in his book Heirloom Vegetable Gardening, 'Old White Eggplant' was the earliest type to reach England, back in the 1500s. This was an ornamental variety with fruit that resembled a chicken egg. Eh viola! The British shared both the plant and its moniker with us. The small, white varieties are more of a novelty to grow, but can be edible if harvested when very young. As they fully ripen, they turn a bright yellow.
The National Gardening Bureau (NGB) has designated 2008 the Year of the Eggplant. You can visit the NGB at www.ngb.org.