The aubergine - one of Sicily's favourite ingredients


If there’s one vegetable that you are bound to see a lot of whilst in Sicily it is the aubergine (eggplant). Originally introduced into Sicily by the Arabs, aubergines are to be found in numerous different forms in local specialities, most famously as an essential part of caponata and pasta alla Norma. It also has an interesting etymological background that dates back to the times of Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Castille and Aragon.

At the time of their reign, Sicily was part of the Spanish kingdom and, as in all Spanish territories, in 1492 Jews were being forced to leave. Sicilian Jews left their homes and many headed for Rome, taking with them their beloved aubergines. The Romans, meanwhile, greatly suspicious of this new black/violet vegetable, named it mela insana – apple of insanity. The name stuck and aubergine in Italian is now “melanzana”.

One of Sicily’s many gastronomic signature tunes is Parmigiana, a dish made from aubergine, tomatoes, basil and grated parmesan cheese. The name comes from a type of aubergine grown in the area, Parmicciana, and it is a wonderful dish for the summer when served cold, but equally tasty in the winter when baked in the oven.

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