The history behind a number of crop plants.
Looking at where they originated, their domestication, the introduction of these crops to Europe, how European attitudes to them changed over the centuries and ultimately how our changing demands have influenced the plants themselves.
The eggplant is another important food crop that belongs to the same family and genus as the potato and tomato. It is a very popular vegetable in many parts of the world, particularly in the warm parts of southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The eggplant has a number of different names in English speaking countries – the two most common are eggplant and aubergine. The plants were originally called eggplant because the fruit on the first plants that arrived in Northern Europe and America looked just like small white eggs.
Today, eggplants come in many shapes, sizes and colours and are enjoyed around the world. Several different species of Solanum are commonly known as eggplant: Solanum melongena is the common eggplant or aubergine, Solanum aethiopicum is the Gilo eggplant and Solanum macrocarpon is the Goma eggplant.
The first eggplants (S. melongena) bought to Europe in the 1600s were grown as ornamentals and looked like plants that grew eggs. These plants are still available today but are not as tasty as the well-known dark purple variety.
- In China, as part of her “bride price,” a woman used to be required to produce at least 12 eggplant recipes prior to her wedding day.
- In Turkey, “imam bayeldi,” a tasty treat of stuffed eggplant simmered in olive oil is said to have made a religious leader swoon in ecstasy.