If you know me you know I love eggplant (see the best eggplant dip recipe in the world). It’s such a versatile veggie and it’s something I discovered first in Turkey, then Syria, tasting my way through Jordan and then Israel. We know you’ve been dying to know when eggplant first arrived to the region. Right? Well wait no more. Israeli archeologists have the answer.
The earliest evidence of the arrival of eggplants in this Israel was found in Jerusalem in a 1,100-year-old refuse pit. This finding reveals what people were eating in Jerusalem in the Early Islamic period, or the Abbasid period – 750–940 CE). A trove of eggplant seeds were found alongside thousands of grape seeds, olive and Christ’s thorn jujube pits, black mulberries, lentils, figs and more.
“The eggplant seeds, which originated in Persia, are just one example of the research potential of ancient refuse,” says Nahshon Szanton, excavation director for the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Among the findings was an ancient lamp bearing the inscription “baracha” or blessing, in Arabic. Also found were bones from cattle, fish and birds, as well as many types of seeds. These represent a variety of foods and vegetable products – legumes, fruit and vegetables, as well as edible wild grasses that were also used as spices and for medicinal purposes.
According to the scholars: “Finding thousands of grape seeds in a refuse pit could attest to industrial activity involving grapes. Wine may have been produced here, or, more likely, grape honey (dibes). We know that with the Muslim conquest grape honey production became more prevalent in the area while wine production declined due to the Muslim religious ban on alcoholic beverages.”