Pineapple or Ananas comosus, is member of the bromeliad family indigenous to South America. Pineapple develops on a plant that remains fairly close to the ground. Each plant yields only one pineapple. Technically the pineapple is not a single fruit but a sorosis; a mass of a hundred or more individual flowers amalgamated onto an inner stalk. As the flowers grow they expand with juice and pulp to become the ‘fruit’. The leaves are found on top because they are in reality the continued growth of the stalk past the location point of the berries.
The pineapple’s name arose out of its similarity to a pinecone, but in a number of European countries it is known by some spin-off from the word ‘annas’ which is derived from the Paraguayan term ‘nana’ meaning ‘exquisite fruit’.
Since the fruit does not store well, it is expensive in countries outside its growing regions as it has to be airlifted there. Adding to this expense is the fact that it has to be picked at the peak of ripeness as it does not ripen once it has been picked, and handled with care. This is why pineapples were a status symbol of wealth and opulence, decorating only the banquet tables of the very rich in seventeenth century Europe.
No part of the fruit is wasted. Left over parts after canning like the skin, ends and core are utilized as food for livestock in addition to making alcohol and vinegar. In places where it is grown, fermented pineapple wine is also produced.
History of Pineapple
The herbaceous plant initially known as ‘anana’ originated from the area that is now known as Brazil and Paraguay. It was commonly cultivated and constituted a part of the staple of the native Indians. It was also used to produce a local Indian alcoholic beverage. The cultivation of pineapples on Caribbean islands was due to the centuries of Indian migration and trade. Being expert dugout canoe navigators, the various tribes were known to raid, and explore across the huge tropical oceans.
Christopher Columbus encountered pineapples during his second voyage to the Caribbean islands in 1493. It was on the Guadaloupe Island, while inspecting a deserted village, that he saw a variety of vegetables and fresh fruits along with pineapples displayed next to pots of human body parts. The European sailors consumed the new fruit and recorded their observations of the new pine cone like fruit with firm interior and sweet pulp like an apple.
The Renaissance Europe to which Columbus introduced the pineapple was largely lacking the common sweets. Refined sugar was a rare product imported at great costs; fresh fruits too were uncommon while orchard-grown fruits were available for limited amounts of time only. In such circumstances the pineapple with its explosive sweetness when chewed, was received as a celebrity by horticulturists and royal connoisseurs. Despite countless efforts it wasn’t until the 1600s that the method for growing the plant locally was perfected. Until then it remained a coveted item which only the few privileged could enjoy. It was so uncommon that King Charles II of England had a pineapple included in his official portrait, because it represented royal privilege.
George Washington declared pineapple his favourite tropical fruit as soon as he tasted it in 1751 in Barbados. While the fruit was commonly cultivated in Florida, it was still fairly uncommon for the general public. It was introduced to Hawaii in 1770 by Captain James Cook but commercial cultivation did not start until 1880. In 1903 James Drummond Dole started canning pineapples, making them easily available worldwide. Production was greatly enhanced with the development of an automated skinning and coring machine making the process of canning faster. Today Hawaii contributes ten percent to the total world pineapple cultivation. Other major pineapple producing countries include Mexico, Honduras, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Thailand, China and Asia.
Health Benefits of Pineapple
Pineapples are short on calories, do not add any saturated fat or cholesterol to a diet, and are totally packed with health building properties. The vitamin C supports the immune system and fights off viruses that are the cause of colds and coughs. It is also needed for making collagen in the body, which is the main protein used in maintaining the reliability of blood vessels, various organs, bones and skin. Additionally vitamin C scavenges the harmful free radicals responsible for causing of many cancers.
Pineapples go a step beyond and help to fight colds due to the enzyme bromelain. It suppresses coughs and loosens mucus. It also neutralizes fluids to eliminate acidity and regulates pancreatic secretions to help with digestion. The protein-digesting qualities of bromelain help to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
The manganese found in pineapples is a trace mineral required by the body for building bones and connective tissues. Just one cup of diced pineapples provides 73 percent of the body’s requirement of this mineral. The beta carotene in the fruit can avert macular degeneration and maintain good eye health in old age. The anti-inflammatory qualities of the fruit can alleviate ailments like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and gout. The copper in the fruit is an important cofactor for red blood cell production, and manganese is a cofactor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, a powerful free radical hunter.
Nutritional Valuesof Pineapple
One cup (165 grams) of pineapple delivers 2.3 grams of fibre which is a little more than nine percent of the daily allowance based on a 2000 calorie diet. It also supplies less than one gram of protein and fat and 82 calories, most of which are in the form of carbohydrates. Pineapples are low in sodium, an element responsible for high blood pressure in some consumers.
In the mineral department pineapples are a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper with one cup providing nine percent of the daily needs. Additionally they provide a good quantity of magnesium, potassium and iron along with smaller quantities of phosphorous calcium, zinc and selenium.
Uses of Pineapple
The first step in preparing a pineapple is to remove the crown and base with a knife. Next placing it base side down, slice off the skin while cutting out any leftover ‘eyes’ with the knife tip. Remove the core with a pineapple corer, or sharp knife, and cut the pineapple up into bite-sized pieces.
A second common way to consume pineapples is to juice them. After peeling and coring, chop the fruit and feed it into your juicer. The core can also be juiced with the softer parts of the fruit, thus reducing waste. The skin of the pineapple is too hard to juice in a conventional way, but it contains many nutrients. The Purdue University suggests that the pineapple be juiced within twenty hours as its quality depreciates very quickly.
Here are some other ways to enjoy a pineapple:
Double Duty Tropical Shake
- ½ cup frozen banana slices
- 1 cup chopped pineapple (fresh)
Freeze the bananas ahead of time by mildly greasing the bottom of the freezing container with vegetable oil, so the slices come out more easily. Take the pineapple pieces, being sure to remove any stringy knots as these do not liquefy easily and remain unbroken in the shake. Place a few pieces of banana and a few of pineapples and blend. Note that you will have to use a powerful blender or add a tiny amount of liquid like orange juice or milk to begin the blending process. Add any remaining pieces and blend together for about sixty seconds.
Minty Pineapple Pops
Syrup: Add half a cup of sugar and one quarter cup of water in a saucepan and bring to boil, stirring to completely dissolve the sugar. Boil until about half a cup remains, then remove from heat and allow to cool down (extra syrup can be saved in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.)
We can now use this syrup in the pops.
- 1 tbsp syrup
- 3 cups fresh pineapple pieces
- 30 ml of water
- 4 large mint leaves
- Tiny pinch of salt.
Place all of the ingredients into a blender and puree until the mixture looks like a frothy juice. Taste the juice and if desired add more syrup according to taste. Freeze in molds overnight for a great tasting snack or desert.
Historically the bromelain in pineapple juice and stem has provided medicinal value since ancient times to bring down inflammation, reduce hay fever symptoms, decelerate blood clotting and speedup antibiotic absorption. Additionally studies show that bromelain can be used to manage the growth of malignant cells and tumours.
A study with more than 110,000 people found that consumption of three or more servings of fruits containing antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids, like those found in pineapples, reduced macular degeneration by 36%. The three serving goal can easily be reached by consuming pineapples in your salad, smoothie or desert.