Aubergines: history and origins

Aubergine's origins are not yet certain, but it seems that this vegetable spread firstly in the hot regions of Southern Asia and more precisely in India, as well as in China, where it is likely that this fruit and vegetable product was already cultivated in the Stone Age.
Aubergines are not mentioned for a long time and Greek or Roman names that indicate the etymology of this fruit and vegetable product are not known: for this reason it is more likely that aubergines were not known in Europe during the Greek-Roman era, however this fresh vegetable is mentioned in the XIII century, when aubergines began to be cultivated in Northern Africa.
It is only around 1400 that aubergines were introduced by Arabs in the Western regions and in Europe, even though only in the areas that for climatic reasons were more favourable to their growth.
It is certain, in fact, that in the XV century aubergines were introduced by Arabs, firstly in Spain and then in Italy, and more precisely in Sicily, where still today there is the largest cultivation of aubergines in Italy.

Since its introduction in Europe, the name of this fruit and vegetable product came from the Arab word “badingian”: in Italy was added the prefix “melo”, becoming “melo-badingian”, later “melangiana” and then "melanzana", name that traditionally was interpreted as “mela non sana” (not healthy apple), because the aubergine is a fresh vegetable that is not eatable raw, but only after being cooked (aubergines, are unpleasant and slightly poisonous when raw because they contain solanine).
Curiously, in some Italian regions the Arab word “badigian” was instead preceded by the prefix "petro” and for this reason, until the first years of 1800 in some texts where aubergines were mentioned, this vegetable was called “petronciano”.

For a long time, aubergines did not have a great success: in the Middle Ages, it was thought that this vegetable could cause madness. However, aubergines are mentioned in a text dated 1550 (Treat above the cultivation of kitchen gardens) written by the Italian scientist Soderini.
In the past, aubergines were stored and consumed pickled, adding some flavoured and hot spices; more recently, during the WWII (1939-1945), the leaves of aubergines were dried at the sun and used by farmers instead of tobacco, that was difficult to find, to produce cigarettes and cigars.

The history of aubergines, even though turbulent and non-continuative, has very old origins that are traced back to the Stone Age until aubergines have increasingly rooted in modern culture gaining, thanks to their great versatility, a lot of space in the modern fruit and vegetable market. In the world fruit and vegetable sector countless different varieties of aubergines are produced and nowadays the aubergine is one of the fresh vegetables with more varieties produced and traded on the international fruit and vegetable market. Nowadays, there are many companies that produce aubergines, certified companies for the production of aubergines, producers of aubergines, companies that produce organic aubergines, companies that deal with the trade of aubergines and packaging of aubergines, retailers of aubergines, importers of aubergines, exporters of aubergines and wholesalers of aubergines: such a range of varieties has increased competition among world countries (EU-members and not) for the production of aubergines and the trade of aubergines.

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