Eggplant appears to be a very ancient fruit; the earliest references to it can be found in Chinese and Indian records. Though usually considered a vegetable, botanists classify eggplant as a berry. Early varieties of eggplant were named for their resemblance to large white eggs; in Europe, eggplant is usually referred to as aubergine. In medieval times eggplant were called mad apples, because they were thought to induce insanity. Experimental horticulturist Thomas Jefferson included varieties of eggplant in his gardens; at the time, growers used eggplant mostly for decorative purposes. Regions of southern and eastern Asia especially appreciate the eggplant, naming it "king of vegetables" and making it a staple of their cuisine. In addition to the traditional purple pear-shape of Black Beauty, eggplant comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Black Beauty is one of the earliest and best known American varieties of eggplant, dating from the early 1900s.
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