The eggplant is a delicate, tropical perennial often cultivated as a tender or half-hardy annual in temperate climates. It grows 40 to 150 cm (16 to 57 in) tall, with large, coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm (4–8 in) long and 5 to 10 cm (2–4 in) broad. Semiwild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm (7 ft) with large leaves over 30 cm (12 in) long and 15 cm (6 in) broad. The stem is often spiny. Theflower is white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The egg-shaped glossy purple fruit has white flesh with a meaty texture. The cut surface of the flesh rapidly turns brown when the fruit is cut open. On wild plants, the fruit is less than 3 cm (1.2 in) in diameter, but very much larger in cultivated forms, reaching 30 cm (12 in) or more in length.

Botanically classified as a berry, the fruit contains numerous small, soft seeds which, though edible, taste bitter because, as a relative of tobacco, they contain nicotinoid alkaloids.