Thanks to Michael Scott, who grows a great variety of unusual and delicious vegetables at Rancho Las Palmas near Atatonilco, visitors to the Saturday Organic market will now be able to find out how eggplant, the large purple one that most of us know, got it’s name. In his crate are little round white ones, and that is the answer. There are many varieties of eggplants that come in different colors and shapes. Purple, green, white and orange – small marble seized, golf ball seized, egg seized, long narrow sausage like ones and the large pear shaped ones.
Botanically the eggplant (Solanum melongena) is classified as a fruit and belongs to the family of nightshades, it is remotely related to the tomato and potato.
The eggplant originated in India and continued it’s global voyage on to southern and eastern Asia where it has been cultivated and much appreciated for over 4000 years. From there it was taken to the Arabic and Mediterranean countries. It was the small white, egg seized one that was first introduced to Europe in the Middle Ages and it’s name Eggplant stuck in English speaking countries, even as the more familiar purple ones were introduced later. In France it was named after the color purple, aubergine. The Spanish, who named it "Berengenas" (berenjenas in Mexico) believed it to be an aphrodisiac, its name translates to “Apple of Love”. They introduced the eggplant to the Americas, mainly to Brazil as early as 1650. Eggplants were still unknown to the United States for another 150 years. Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the United States in 1806 from France were he had enjoyed them very much. To this day a prickly, white Eggplant is still grown in Jefferson's preserved Virginia Garden at Monticello. Jefferson was not only a founding father of the United States, but also a legendary horticulturist who championed new vegetable varieties to his country. Despite his efforts, the eggplant for a long time was only an ornamental plant in the United States, until immigrants from eggplant loving countries arrived and tuned the garden ornaments into their favorite dishes. Last year the US imported about 140 million pounds of eggplant, 80% of which was grown in Mexico.
Go to the recipe tab for my "Eggplant and Potato" recipe.