I am able to follow-up on yesterday’s story on the eggplant (or aubergine, if you prefer.) One of the many names of this vegetable (which is technically fruit) is Apple of Sodom. I found the explanation of the name in a book which I am sure will give us other stories in the future. It is Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics, by Richard Folkard, and was published in 1884. The piece also shows once again the difficulties caused by the same common name being applied to several plants.
The author says:
The Solanum Sodomeum is a purple Egg-plant of which the fruit is naturally large and handsome. It is, however, subject to the attacks of an insect (a species of Cynips), which punctures this rind, and converts converts the interior of the fruit into a substance like ashes, while the outside remains fair and beautiful. It is found on the desolate shores of the Dead Sea, on the site of those cities of the plain the dreadful judgement on which is recorded in sacred history. Hence the fruit, called the Apple of Sodom, has acquired a sinister reputation, and is regarded as the symbol of sin. Its first appearance, it is said, is always attended with a bitter north-east wind, and therefore ships for the Black Sea take care to sail before the harbinger of bad weather comes forth. The fruit is reputed to be poisonous. Josephus, the Jewish historian, speaks of them as having “a fair colour, as if they were fit to be eaten but if you pluck them with your hand, they vanish into smoke and ashes.” Milton, describing an Apple, which added new torments to the fallen angels, compares it to the Apples of Sodom.
“Greedily they pluck’d
The fruitage fair to sight, like that which grew
Near that bituminous lake where Sodom flamed.
This mere delusion, not the touch but taste
Deceived; they fondly thinking to allay
Their appetite with gust, instead of fruit
Chewed bitter ashes.”
Henry Teonge, who visited the country round the Dead Sea in 1675, describes it as being “all over full of stones which look just like burnt syndurs, and on some low shrubs there grow small round things which are called Apples, but no witt like them. They are somewhat fayre to looke at, but touch them and tey smooulder all to black ashes, like soote both for looks and smell.” – The name Apple of Sodom is also given to a kind of Gall-nut, which is found on the banks of the Jordan. Dead Sea Apples is a term applied to the Bussorah Gall-nut, which is formed on the Oak Quercus infecoria by an insect and being of a bright ruddy purple, but filled with gritty powder they are suggestive of the deceptive Apple of Sodom
“Dead Sea fruits, that tempt the eye,
But turn to ashes on the lips.”
The recipes for the day are from The Creole Cookery Book, published for the Christian Woman's Exchange in New Orleans in 1885.
Parboil them, after splitting them in half, scrape out the middle, which you chop up with little slips of bacon, onion cut up small, and crumbs of bread mixed with a raw egg; then
fill the skins with this stuffing and bake them nicely. The bread is also grated on the surface of them.
STUFFED EGG PLANT.
Cut in half, take out the centre, boil the inside; when soft, chop fine, and season with fried onions, parsley, egg, salt, butter, pepper and bread, then stuff the outsides; cover with bread crumbs, and add the insides of fresh tomatoes, if you choose.
TURKISH EGG PLANT.
Slice 1, and just brown it in a frying pan, chop 2 lbs. cold beef, mutton or veal, very fine, season with one fine chopped onion, 6 whole peppers, (½ teaspoon cloves, ditto allspice, celery seed, white pepper and salt, put in baking dish a layer of egg plant, then of beef, and so on until it is filled, having layer of egg plant on top; pour cold gravy or water on the whole; cover with, another dish when set in oven, but remove it in time to let the top brown a little before done.