Here are some historical tidbits about eggplant or as they were often referred to in the 19th Century Guinea Squash. I've also included a couple recipes for comparison purposes.
Egg-plant, Or Guinea Squash. The egg plant is a tender annual, a native of Africa, whence its name Guinea Squash. It was introduced into England in 1597. The varieties of purple egg-plant are the only ones used in cooking, the white variety being raised for ornament. Egg-plant derives its name from the white variety, which when small bears a close resemblance to an egg. The egg-plant when first introduced, was not regarded with much favor for culinary purposes, but is now rapidly working its way upwards in general esteem.
Source: Gardening of the South ©1857
Farming Tidbit for Eggplant:
No vegetable with which I am acquainted, can withstand drouth better than the eggplant, which bears and matures its fruit under a degree of heat and dryness that would be fatal to other crops. If there be a sufficiency of decayed vegetable matter in the soil, this crop may be allotted to the sandiest part of the farm.
Source: Truck Farming at the South ©1884
EGG-PLANTS are in their prime this month, being fresh and home raised, and though very cheap are far from being an economical dish when fried, as they absorb so much fat, but if used in the place of meat will be better both for the purse and stomach. They should be thinly sliced, unpared, each slice sprinkled with salt; piled together on a dish, an inverted china plate (not tin, as that would blacken them) over them, with a flatiron on top as a weight to press out the juice. After an hour, wipe each slice dry; dip in egg and bread crumbs and fry quickly in very hot lard or dripping. Drain them on brown paper before putting them on the dish. Tomatoes in some form, either sliced raw, or as catsup, should be served with them.
If egg-plant is to be used at dinner with meat, it is better and more economical to bake them. For this purpose select a large one; put it in boiling water, salted, and cook until tender. Take it out carefully; cut off a small circular piece from the stem end, and scoop out the inside, being careful not to break the skin. Mash the eggplant; add salt, pepper and a lump of butter; put it back in the skin; replace the end; brush it over with egg; sprinkle with bread crumbs and brown it in a quick oven.
Source: Table Talk ©1888
Eggplant Baked in Bread Crumbs—This recipe requires one young and tender eggplant, one tablespoonful of chopped parsley, one tablespoonful of vinegar; season with one teaspoonful of salt and three dashes of pepper; two tablespoonfuls of butter, if you can spare it, if not, one will do; two cups of bread crumbs, and two onions grated. Peel the eggplant and cut it in inch dice. Put it into the sauce-pan with one gill of boiling water. Simmer very gently until tender, but not entirely done, ten to fifteen minutes. Then throw it into a colander and drain as dry as possible, squeezeing out the water with a saucer. Meanwhile, fry the onions in butter. When the eggplant is thoroughly drained, remove the saucepan and onions from the fire and stir the eggplant, parsley, pepper, salt and vinegar and butter. If the eggplant has been properly dried It will absorb the butter entirely. Put in a baking dish, cover the top with browned bread crumbs and dots of butter, and bake twenty to twenty-five minutes in a good oven. There should be nearly one quart of the stewed eggplant for the above preparations, therefore, if you have not one large one, use two small ones.
Source: The Daily News Cook Book ©1896
FRIED EGG-PLANT No. I Pare the egg-plant, and cut in very thin slices. Sprinkle each slice with salt and pepper, pile them evenly, put a tin plate over them, and on this stand a flat-iron to press out the juice. Let stand one hour. Beat an egg lightly, and add to it a tablespoonful of boiling water, dip each slice first in this and then in bread crumbs. Put three tablespoonfuls of lard or dripping in a frying-pan; when hot, saute the slices, a few at a time, brown one side, then turn and brown the other. As the fat is consumed, add more, waiting each time for it to heat before putting in the eggplant. Drain on brown paper, and serve very hot. Tomato catsup should be served with it.
FRIED EGG-PLANT No. 2 Pare the egg-plant, and cut it in slices about a quarter of an inch thick, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge thickly with flour, and saute as directed in preceding recipe.
Source: Mrs. Rorer's Philadelphia Cook Book ©1886
Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning & best-selling author who makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, with her husband of 41 years. Lynn's latest novel "The Shepherd's Betrothal" is the third book in her Historical St. Augustine, FL. series.
Check out her 19th Century Historical Tidbits Blog if you like exploring different tidbits of history.