We’re all familiar with eggplants, right? You know, those long purple fruits (yes, it’s a fruit) that taste delicious after being smothered in breadcrumbs, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. But have you ever stopped to wonder why eggplants are called eggplants — especially considering they neither look nor taste like eggs? Well, a now-viral photo on reddit of unripe eggplants seems to clear up the confusion, and frankly, our minds are blown!
White Eggplants vs. Purple Eggplants
OK, so these eggplants in the photo are actually white eggplants, which begs the question: What’s the difference between purple and white eggplants?
The most obvious difference between white and purple eggplants is, as their names imply, the color. The sizes will also vary, but because there are so many varieties of each, it would be wrong to say that all white eggplants are small and egg-shaped, while all purple eggplants are long and oval. You can have oblong white eggplants, and you can have short, squat purple eggplants.
If you’ve never eaten an eggplant before, you might be asking “What do eggplants taste like?” And even if you have had eggplant recently, it’s such a neutral food that describing the taste might be a bit of a struggle. Raw eggplant is bitter and chewy, with a sponge-like texture that’s off-putting to many. As a cooking ingredient, eggplant will soak up the flavors of whatever you put with it, so you can essentially make it taste like anything — hence why this fruit is an oft-used meat alternative. But cook it too long and eggplant will turn mushy — another reason many don’t like it.
When it comes to white eggplant, Specialty Produce describes the flavor as “fruity and mild” when raw. Cooked white eggplant has a “warm, mellow” taste. Though you don’t always have to peel a purple eggplant, you should peel a white eggplant before cooking because the skin is a bit thicker.
So, why are eggplants called eggplants?
Eggplants have been around for centuries. (In fact, they were first mentioned back in 544 in a Chinese book on agriculture.) And as the story goes, European farmers in the 1700s gave eggplants their name because at the time, the fruits were smaller and yellow or white. Because they resembled goose and duck eggs, they were given the oh-so-creative name “eggplants.” Pretty neat, right?