Eggplant, indigenous to Indochina and early cultivated in India and China, migrated to the Mediterranean Basin along with Moslem conquests and probably reached Spain in the VIIIth century and the rest of Europe soon after. A XIVth-century drawing from China indicates roundish and possibly white fruits (Fig. 7). Eggplant images appear at about the same period in European Medieval herbals, generally with globose, medium-sized fruits of violet, brownish, or whitish colour. Eggplant is included in several illustrated XVth-century manuscripts with the text (in French or Latin) derived from the XIIth-century De simplici medicina of Mattheus Platearius. One shows globular purple fruit very similar to current types but the image suggests also putative aphrodisiac effects (Fig. 8); another is quite fanciful representing an eggplant tree (NAL 1673, folio 25v). In Renaissance herbals, new fruit types appear including pyriform (Aldrovandi, second half of the XVIth century, vol.1–1 folio 53), egg-shaped (Fuchs, 1543, folio 300), or elongated (Dalechamps, 1653), but most of the woodcuts of this period are very sketchy and repetitive from one herbal to another. Eggplant is also found in late Renaissance and Baroque paintings. In the frescoes of the ceilings of the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche of the Villa Farnesina, painted by Giovanni da Udina, a member of the workshop of Raphael Sanzio between 1515 and 1518 (Caneva, 1992), there are 31 pyriform to globose fruits; immature ones range from light violet to purple, many showing a white ground color while mature ones are yellow. Eggplant is included in the portrait composed of fruits called “Summer” of G. Archimboldi (1573).
The Latin vocable Mala insana (or Malum insanum) was applied as soon as the XVth century for naming eggplant (probably because of the resemblance of its berries to those of mandrake and hence to the suspicion that ensued). This deprecating term was later on adapted in several European languages: Mad apple (English), Doll öpffel (German) and Pommes de rage (French). However, eggplant was also called Poma amoris or Amoris Poma (Latin), Love apple (English), Pommes d’amour (French) and Pomi d’amore (Italian)—a name that this species shared for a time with tomato. These opposite appellations, Mad apple and Love apple, well represent the contradictory opinions about this fruit.
As is true of almost all vegetables, eggplants had medicinal, culinary and even ornamental uses. In India eggplants were, and still are, widely used for medicinal purposes, but both Fuchs (1543) and Dalechamps (1653) concur about the poor use of this plant in European medicine. By the XVIIth century, eggplant was a favorite food of Mediterranean cuisines.
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