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Sometimes the reasons for a name are hard to crack. Take the eggplant, for example.
It's known as aubergine in Europe, brinjal on the Indian subcontinent, and scientifically as Solanum melongena, but the name used widely in North America – eggplant – doesn't seem quite right. That's because, for the most part, we think of eggplants as large, purple, oddly-shaped, gourd-like fruits (yes, fruits) that in no way look like the white things laid by hens.
But if you had been one of the first westerners to take an interest in the plant, you would have seen what British colonists in India saw and then named: small, white, egg-shaped fruits. You probably won't find them at your local grocery store, but white eggplants are still grown and come in several varieties, including Casper, Easter white, and garden egg. It was mostly the purple kind shipped elsewhere, since the white ones are smaller and far more fragile. But for many centuries, white eggplants were cultivated in India for use in Ayurvedic medicine, particular for the treatment of diabetes.
What's in a (food) name:
- Sweatbreads are the pancreas or thymus of a young animal, and they are not sweet (and obviously not breads).
- Boston cream pie is a sponge cake, not a pie, and it's filled with custard, not cream.
- Head cheese has no cheese in it, but it is the meat taken from the head parts of several animals, such as cows and pigs.