Pineapples – A Fruit Fit for a King (or Queen)

Pineapples – A Fruit Fit for a King (or Queen)

Originally discovered and brought back to Europe by explorers in the 1400’s, pineapples were grown across South America for hundreds of years previously and were a welcomed food source for indigenous tribes. It was in South America the fruit was first referred to as Ananas, a name that, in many European languages, remains the same today.

The crop is now cultivated globally, with over 25 million tonnes exported around the world from countries including Indonesia and Costa Rica, which remains the world’s largest producer of pineapples. Born out of necessity, due to increased demands from European and North American consumers, agricultural developments have allowed for flowering of the plant to be artificially induced. This makes way for a second crop of smaller fruits, maximising yield.

Pineapple is one of the few fruits that do not ripen after harvest. Once the crop has been cut its colour and flavour will remain the same until it starts to perish. For this reason the crop is cut early and the rich yellow colour is artificially induced before harvest. If left to turn yellow the fruit would bruise more easily during transport, leaving it more susceptible to rotting.

A Brief History of Pineapples

The name pineapple was originally used to refer to what we now call pine cones. When the fruit was first discovered in South America, by European explorers, it was given the name pineapple in reference to its rough and wood like texture, similar to a pine cone. The fruit earned its scientific name ,Ananas Comosus, from the indigenous tribal languages spoken across South America and was first recorded almost 100 years before the fruit was referenced as pineapple. The word Ananas or ‘Nanas’ in the Tupi language means ‘excellent fruit’ and comosus means ‘tufted’.

Columbus first encountered the fruit in Guadeloupe and brought it back with him to Spain. From there it was introduced to countries across the globe who themselves began to cultivate the fruit. King Louis XV of France was among the first to grow the plant in lower climates, ordering a hothouse to be built in the grounds of Versailles. These hothouses grew in popularity throughout the 18th century and were seen as a symbol of great wealth.  In 1761 John Murray famously commissioned a hothouse to be built at his home, Dunmore Park in Stirlingshire. The structure was located at the entrance to one of the parks many walled gardens and features a 14 metre high domed roof in the shape of a pineapple. The folly still stands today and is recognised as one of the most bizarre buildings in Scotland.

All Shapes and Sizes

The most commonly grown cultivar of pineapple is the smooth cayenne, popular for its smooth leaves, pale yellow to yellow flesh and high sugar content. This variety is used for canning and juicing as well as eating fresh. Other varieties include the red pineapple which has pale yellow flesh and distinct red leaves, and is well adapted for long distant shipping. The Kona or ‘Sugarloaf’ variety is popular for its high sugar content and low acidity. The fruit also has pale flesh and lacks the woody texture common in other cultivars.

Health benefits

One 100 gram serving of pineapple contains 58% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C, linked to several common health benefits. The fruit also contains manganese which is required in small quantities for general well-being, but in larger quantities has been linked to neurological disorders and impaired nervous system function. Unlike other apples, one pineapple a day will most definitely not keep the doctor away! Manganese is also found in small quantities in grains, beans, nuts and even tea.

Other Uses

Materials made from the fibres of pineapple leaves can be used in a variety of textiles, including wallpaper and soft furnishings. In the Philippines, the textile, known as Piña, is used to produce ceremonial dress for men and women.

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