Monday, March 02, 2009


I think it is a pity that we stopped calling tomatoes Love Apples.
I also think it is a pity that we stopped calling eggplants Mad Apples.
I don’t know why we stopped using these fun names.
I do know how the names came about however.

The origin of Love Apples is easy. When the tomato was first introduced to Europe from the ‘New World’ it was viewed with great suspicion, partly on principle, because it was new, and partly because it was assigned to the nightshade family of plants. The nightshade family had two strikes against it. Firstly, it contained a number of poisonous members. Secondly, it included the mandrake, a plant reputed to be aphrodisiac - which was enough to put all its relatives at risk of denunciation from the pulpit. The second reason, of course, is responsible for its name, and I presume was intended to act as a warning to anyone foolish enough to risk its effects. It was still not widely used until well into the nineteenth century, although America took to it before England. Even Mrs Beeton (1861) referred to them as Love Apples, although she did give a couple of recipes.

As for the eggplant, the name Mad-Apple comes by way of a double mistranslation. The Italian melanzana was heard as mala insana, and this was then translated to ‘mad apple’, which is a truly wonderful true explanation. The eggplant is also sometimes called Brown-Jolly in older English texts. This is a misinterpretation of brinjal, the ‘Indian’ name for Solanum melongena, vatimgana, al-badinjan, aubergine, badingan, melongena, berenjena, albergínia, Guinea squash, nasu ……….

Love apple catsup.
Cut up the tomatas or love apples, and between every layer sprinkle a layer of salt; let them stand a few hours before you boil them, which do very well; then strain them through a cullender on some horseradish, onions, or garlic, mustard seeds, beaten ginger, pepper, and mace; cover it close; let it stand a day or two; then bottle and seal it for use.

Love apple cakes for stews, &c.
Prepare the tomatas exactly in the same manner as recommended for sauce, only boil away as much of the watery particles as you conveniently can; then place the residue in a flat dish out in the sun; when it has evaporated so as to become almost a dry cake, cut it into pieces about one inch square, and preserve either in wide-mouthed bottles or canisters; when required for use one of the squares soaked in water for a few hours until dissolved with be sufficient to season a dish of cutlets or soup. This will keep a long time, in fact it is only the inspissated juice of tomatas.

Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book, by R. Riddell, 1860

Quotation for the Day.

A dinner divested of ceremony, is an act of perfidy.

1 comment:

srhcb said...

Through the 1600's the world "apple" referred to any generic fruit or nut. Oddly enough, both my g'kids called anything remotely red, round and edible as "appo".