By Wendy King
If one thinks about purple berries, maybe blackberries or grapes spring to mind. But eggplant is also a card-carrying member of the fruit clan! The eggplant also claims lineage to the ominous-sounding nightshade family, along with the tomato, pepper, and potato, and provides a lot of nutritional value. Since this fruit frequently features in savory dishes from Parmesan to pizza, its true identity is often hidden. In addition to purple, the eggplant comes in shades of green and white, which coupled with its egg shape, sheds light on how it was named.
Documented as early as 300 BC, this funny-looking fruit was first cultivated in India and China and became a staple of diets and medicine, used to treat diabetes and asthma, according to the International Society for Horticultural Science. Eggplant then worked its way across continents to Persia, Greece, Rome, and Medieval Europe. In this last stop, eggplant was interestingly dubbed an aphrodisiac as well as the culprit causing melancholy and anger. These same Europeans also accepted this flexible fruit as a good addition to the evening meal, with the right seasoning added to supposedly ward off any bad effects. The eggplant even traveled to the Americas in the Age of Exploration and was documented in Brazil in the 17th century. Continue reading