Little story behind eggplant
Little story behind eggplant
All about eggplant > Little story behind eggplant   

From the Malayan purple melon to the kitchens of Asia…
The eggplant has been known across Asia for more than 2500 years, though it first came to light some 4000 years ago in the Assam and Burma region. Carried along by the great Arab caravans, the eggplant next won over northern Africa where it was quickly adopted by the Mediterranean peoples. They took it with them when they invaded Spain and settled in Andalusia in the early middle ages. Dismissed by physicians in Europe, the eggplant was nevertheless grown as an ornamental plant, and the Anglo-Saxons had a variety that brought to mind "eggs": a plant with small sumptuously-robed fruits, which they grew indoors.

This vegetable, resplendent in its purple garb like some high-ranking prelate, piqued the curiosity of the French king Louis XIV who asked his gardener to begin growing the plant - though it was not until the 19th century that the eggplant began to show up in cook books. For a long time it remained a southern vegetable and a prerogative of the cuisine of Nice, Andalusia, Greece and Italy. Immigration, marketing and exports, however, eventually carried the eggplant to tables around the world.

It was introduced into the United States by Thomas Jefferson who carried out many growing experiments with seeds and cuttings from numerous varieties.

The Apple of Sodom
Nicknamed the "apple of Sodom" by physicians and botanists who accused the eggplant of causing fevers and epileptic seizures in their patients, the eggplant was first called Solanum insanum…. since it was thought to be deleterious and unwholesome to the point of causing madness! And yet, people starting taking a liking to this strange vegetable and the botanist Linnaeus decided that its name was a bit too harsh, and changed it to Solanum melongena, meaning bad, but soothing, apple.

For their part, Italians preferred to keep the original name, transforming Solanum insanum into melanzana.

Imam Bayildi
A very long time ago in the East, a priest wanted to marry a young girl whose greatest quality was that she was a very fine cook. He sought out the girl's father and demanded as a dowry 12 large jars filled to the top with the purest olive oil.

The girl, returning from her wedding, put some eggplants aside to soak in the oil: in fact, they soaked up so much that in 11 days, they had drunk up all her dowry. Learning that the oil was gone so soon - or perhaps from too much fat consumption - the Imam fell into a dead faint. Which is why in Eastern restaurants you will sometimes find eggplant fried in oil served under the name "Imam Bayildi," meaning "the priest fainted."

Search within the site
Advanced search >
Register free to receive our official newsletter
Sign up
Subscribe to our free RSS feeds:
Get the daily and monthly recipe posts automatically added to your newsreader.
Sign up