Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mad Apples, How to Use.

A few days ago I gave you the early eighteenth century view of Polenta from Botanologia, the English herbal, or, History of plants (1710) by William Salmon. This marvelous source is going to start off the story for today too.
Some years ago (March 2009, to be exact) I wrote a post called “Not Apples.” The title referenced “Mad Apples” and “Love Apples” but focused on the latter. It is time to add to the story. As I am sure that you all know, Love Apples are tomatoes. Let me remind you of Mad Apples. From that previous post:

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, albergĂ­nia, Guinea squash, …

The author of Botanologia begins with a definition of the plant, and I give you part of this below. He also includes, as was usual for the time, a great deal of information and advice on the medicinal virtues of the plant (and was particularly concerned about its “inciting to Venery.”) I refer you to the full text (Thankyou Google Books!) if you are interested in this aspect of the eggplant/aubergine, as I have not transcribed it here. The plant and its fruit were a curiosity in England at the time, and the author gives some space over to its culinary uses – which is, of course, my main interest – and the relevant paragraph is therefore given in full.

Of Mad Apples.
I. The Names. This plant has no known Greek name … but to supply the place, we may call it …. In Latin, … Pl. Mala insans ; in English, … Mad Apples.
II. The Kinds. There are three Kinds, 1. The Syrian. 2. The European. 3. The Ethiopian, of which we shall say nothing in this Work. …
X. The Apples. They are boiled in Fat Broth, or rather in Water and Vinegar, and so eaten, being served up with Oil, Vinegar, Pepper, and Salt, and this at Genoua is a great Dish. Fuchsius says, there is a superabundant coldness and moisture in them, as there is in Cucumbers and Mushrooms, but the beauty of the Fruit, and the wonderful delight they give to the Palate, also their inciting to Venery, (which most Windy things, as these are, do) are the great Motives which intice to the eating of them: Wherefore in Italy, and other hot Countries, where they come to their full Maturity, and proper Relish, they eat them with more Desire and Relish than we do Cucumbers, and therefore Prepare and Dress them in divers manners; some eat them raw, as we do Cucumbers; some Roast them under the Embers; some first Boil them, then Pare and Slice them, ans o eat them as first related; some strew Flower [flour] over them and Fry them with Oil or Butter, and serve them to the Table with Pepper and Salt; and some keep them in Pickle, to spend in Winter and next Spring.

The eggplant was still a curiosity in English gardens when The Gardeners Dictionary, by Philip Miller, was published in 1754. The author gives it the name “Melongena. Mad Apple.” He gives more insights into the names of the plant , its medicinal properties, and its method of preparation for food.

Of late, some persons who were ignorant of the true Name of this Plant, have given it that of the Eggplant, from a Resemblance which some of these Fruit bear to Eggs, but this is confusing People.
These Plants are greatly cultivated in the Gardens of Italy, Spain, and Barbary; in which Places the Inhabitants eat the Fruit of them boil'd with fat Flesh, putting thereto some scrap'd Cheese, which they preserve in Vinegar, Honey, or salt Pickle, all Winter, to provoke a venereal Appetite : but in Summer, when the Fruit is just ripe, they usually gather them, and make them up into Puddens with several Sorts of Spices, and other Ingredients: which Dish the Italians are very fond of.
The Italians call this Fruit Melanzana, from the antient Latin Name of Mala insana; by which it is by many Authors stiled. The Turks call it Badanjan , and in some English Books it is titled Brevun Jains, probably from a Corruption of the Turkish Name. By some it has been called Brown Jolly, and Barm Jelly, from the same Corruption. …. These Plants are only preserved as Curiosities in the English Gardens, the Fruit being never us'd in this Country, except by some Italians or Spaniards, who have been accustom'd to eat of them in their own Countries.

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