Pineapple (botanical name Ananas comosus) is a perennial plant that grows up to a height of approximately 2 to 4 feet. The stem of this solitary farmed fruit passes through it completely forming a crown, comprising firm and prickly leaves, on top. The pineapple is a fruit whose color is reddish-yellow and its exterior is akin to scales.
The thought of pineapples conjures images of Hawaii in your mind. This association has been so close that majority of the people are of the belief that this plant is indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands. In reality, the origin of pineapples has been traced to South America and perhaps this plant did not arrive in Hawaii before early 19th century. The earliest document regarding the existence of pineapples date back to January 21, 1813 - after the Europeans had already this plant in several regions of the world.
In 1493, the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus found pineapples in the Guadeloupe islands in the West Indies during his second voyage to the New World. The indigenous people who farmed pineapples there called this fruit ‘ananas’ and the brutal and belligerent Caribs had brought this species from the Amazon region several generations ago. This part of verbal history may possibly be right, because the burial sites from the pre-Incan era found in Brazil have brought jars having the shape of pineapples to the forth. On his part, Columbus named the fruit ‘la piňa de las Indians (denoting the pine from the Indies). Justifying the name, afterwards Columbus told Ferdinand as well as Isabella that these fruits reminded him of the ‘green hued pine cones that are extremely sweet as well as delectable’. This strange name remained, and till today people in most Spanish-speaking nations call pineapples ‘piňas’. It is worth mentioning here that in England the term pineapple originally denoted a ‘pine cone’.
People in Europe received this new fruit very excitedly and sooner or later carried the plant to India, China, Africa as well as the East Indies - all these places have a warm (tropical) climatic condition, which is suitable for this tender plant species to mature. On average, this fruit takes about 15 months free from frost to develop as well as mature on the pineapple stem that originates from a rosette comprising rigid leaves having a spine edge and up to a height of two to four feet. In effect, the pineapple fruit is a compound flower head that develops surrounding the stem, which runs totally through the fruit - the lone cultivated fruit that has this structure. If you look at the exterior of the fruit, you will observe the presence of several small structures commonly called ‘eyes’, which are basically the dried out base of a little purple hued bloom. The crown at the top of the fruit encloses a bud and the maturity of the bud is an indication that the time is right to cut the fruit. Practically, pineapples do not have any seed and they are propagated from the fruits’ crowns.
With the advent of greenhouses sometime during 1700, irrespective of the climatic conditions, it became feasible for several well-to-do Europeans to cultivate pineapples for their personal consumption. In effect, soon consuming fresh pineapples developed into a status symbol for those who were affluent. For the wealthy in Europe as well as the New World, it became a fashion to decorate the posts at the end of their beds, desk finials as well as additional furniture with carvings resembling pineapples. They even decorated their front entrances, gateposts and also the gables or peak of the building walls of their mansions with pine-apple shaped structures.
All through this period in history, people primarily valued pineapple only in the form of a delicious and luxury food. People had virtually forgotten the fact that the initial explorers had intriguingly noticed that the native Indians also used the pineapples to prepare poultices to lessen inflammation caused by wounds as well as a number of skin injuries. However, in 1891, scientists were successful in isolating an enzyme known as bromelain from the fruit’s flesh. It was found that this enzyme was actually proteolytic - denoting that the enzyme possessed an attribute that helped in breaking down proteins. Therefore, pineapples naturally make meat softer (remember, the rings of pineapple placed on top of baked ham are simply not done to enhance the flavour, but to make the meat more tender) and also help in digesting ingested foods. Pineapples also possess the capability to disintegrate blood clots (in fact, it is protein that bind these blood platelets to develop into a clot) and also get rid of all dead tissues that remain after any burn injury, or those left behind by ulcers, abscesses in addition to different types of surgeries.
Meanwhile, it is yet to be ascertained as to how pineapple eventually reached Hawaii. Locally, the plant is called ‘hala kahiki’, denoting the ‘plant from Tahiti’. However, in local terms, all foreign people or those from alien lands were known as ‘Tahiti’. It is an acknowledged that the English sailors carried limes to put off scurvy, while the Spanish sailors took with them pineapples for the same reason. Even as they used the fruit, they abandoned the crown of the plant on various islands scattered in the Pacific Ocean and they developed into new plants. Incidentally, the Spanish did not go to Hawaii in those days, but the plant was introduced there. Currently, pineapple is not only among the major crops in Hawaii, but is also the most familiar icon of this place.
Tribal communities in Brazil have at all times held pineapple in high esteem and not only used this fruit as their stable food, but also as a constituent of a number of wines. After the primary explorers introduced pineapple to Europe, the syrupiness as well as the extraordinary look of this fruit made it an icon of imperial privilege. On the other hand, the pineapple was a symbol of friendship as well as cordiality in the American settlements. In effect, the hosts who provided their guests with such a rarely available and unusual fruit actually used it to declare their high standing in the society. This fruit was extremely well accepted in the American settlements, so much so that the confectioners even rented them out to families on a daily basis. This fruit encloses an enzyme which is now employed to soften meat. It is believed that this enzyme is so potent that people who are engaged in the job of cutting pineapples may often lose their fingerprints as they come in contact with this enzyme so frequently. Even the leaf of a number of varieties of pineapple is useful - they supply piňa fiber, which is used as thread for embroidery.
Traditional medicine in the tropical regions has employed pineapples to prepare medications for treating an assortment of illnesses varying from jaundice to constipation. During the initial stage of exploration by Europeans, sailors, who were deprived of fresh fruits on the ship, consumed pineapple when they came across this fruit and avoided scurvy, as it is rich in vitamin C content. As discussed earlier, pineapples enclose an enzyme called bromelain, which has the aptitude to break down protein and augment bleeding time and decreasing the formation of blood clots. In addition, bromelain has also found to be helpful in eliminating parasites like different worms.
Unripe pineapple is sour to taste, but consuming it helps to enhance digestion, augment appetite and also alleviates indigestion or dyspepsia. According to the herbal medicine practiced in India, pineapple is believed to work in the form of a tonic for the uterus. Consumption of ripe pineapple is refreshing as well as soothing and, hence, it is employed to eliminate gastrointestinal gas, and get rid of too much stomach acid. As the fruit is rich in fiber content, it helps in relieving constipation. The juice obtained from ripened pineapple stimulates digestion and also works as a diuretic. The leaves also possess therapeutic properties and are believed to be helpful in promoting menstrual periods as well as alleviating excruciating menstruation.
Other medical uses
Pineapple is an extremely popular fruit all over the world and also its flesh as well as juice is used for culinary purposes. In several tropical nations, ripened pineapple is sold in the form of a roadside snack after it is prepared. You may buy them as a whole fruit, or in slices inserted with that a small stick. People in the western nations prefer to garnish hams with cored slices of whole ripened pineapple having a cherry in the center. Often people also use large pineapple pieces in desserts like fruit salad, while such chunks also form the principle ingredient in salty dishes like hamburgers as well as pizza toppings. Pineapple is crushed and used in jams, ice cream, yogurt and sweets too. While the juice of a ripe pineapple is consumed in the form of a beverage, it also forms one of the major ingredients in cocktails, for instance, the Piña colada.
Habitat and cultivation
Indigenous to South America, now pineapple is cultivated in several regions of the world including North America, South Africa, Cuba, the Philippines and Australia. Initially, this fruit was grown in places having tropical climatic conditions, but with the introduction of greenhouses, it is now possible to cultivate the plant anywhere.
Pineapples are not propagated from seeds, but by means of asexual or vegetative growth. Basically, there are four common types of new vegetative growths that propagate pineapples - suckers originating at the leaves or axils; crowns comprising firm and spiny leaves that develop atop the fruits; slips arising from the stem underneath the fruit; and ratoons (shoots or sprouts originating from the roots below the ground).
While the cultivators have a preference for suckers and slips of the plant, the pineapple crowns are actually the principle vegetative growths used by majority of the gardeners to propagate this plant. The crowns can be obtained by removing them from the fruits purchased from the stores. The leaves at the base of the crown are eliminated and the remaining crown is dried for two days. Subsequently, it is planted in the soil or grown in water.
Pineapples are generally transplanted outdoors during summer. Using a ground cover prepared from black plastic is excellent for growing pineapples, as it not only shields the plants from weeds, but also absorbs additional heat. In addition, this ground cover also aids in conserving moisture. Conventionally, the pineapple plants are positions at intervals of 12 inches from each other. Ideally, you should place the crown approximately two inches deep into the soil, while the slips and suckers may be set between three to four inches deep into the soil.
Chemical examination of pineapple has confirmed that this fruit encloses bromelain, an enzyme that helps to break down protein and thereby promoting digestion. In addition, pineapple contains considerable amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C.
Side effects and cautions
While pineapple is an extremely flavourful fruit that is liked by people worldwide, consuming it also has its downsides. For instance, drinking the juice of the unripe fruit may result in serious vomiting. On the other hand, ingesting bromelain is also known to have a number of rarely occurring side effects, including too much menstrual flow, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, in addition to developing skin rashes. If you consume this fruit in excessive amounts, you may possible experience distension of the cheeks and mouth.
Collection and harvesting
Pineapple does not have any particular season to mature. In fact, it is quite difficult to pinpoint the time when this fruit is ready for harvesting. There are a number of people who strike a finger at side the pineapple with a view to assess the fruit’s ripeness as well as quality. It is said that if a pineapple is ripe and of good quality, it will produce a muffled and solid sound. On the other hand, if the pineapple produces a hollow thump, it indicates that the fruit is unripe and of inferior quality. Following harvesting, ripened pineapple ought to be stored at about 45° F or higher temperature. However, you should not store a ripened pineapple for over four to six weeks.