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Plums »« Persimmon: Fuyu

Pineapple

Ananas comosus


Description

Pineapple is one of the most distinctively tropical fruits. This juicy, fragrant fruit is a favourite with many people and has plenty of uses, so you won’t get bored. Pineapples don’t fruit in New Zealand, so in this country they’re imported from countries such as the Phillippines.

Pineapples aren’t usually sold by variety – normally they’re classed as either rough- or smooth-leaved. Rough-leaved pineapples are especially aromatic, with sweet flesh, while smooth-leaved are large and juicy, but not as sweet.

Pineapples are a great source of vitamins B1, B6 and C, and it’ll also give you fibre, manganese and copper.

Pineapples don’t ripen after picking, and they’re often harvested a touch too early, so follow your nose and look for one with a sweet fragrance. You can also check it for ripeness by pulling a leaf from its crown – on a ripe pineapple, the leaf will come away easily. The colour of the skin is no indication as it varies from fruit to fruit.

Store pineapple at room temperature for one or two days, or in the fridge for up to four days in a plastic bag with the leaves attached.

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History

Pineapples were cultivated by Central Americans from an indigenous wild fruit, and were first discovered by Christopher Columbus and his crew – a discovery that they found almost as exciting as the Americas themselves.

By the mid-16th century the fruit was being preserved in sugar to be sent back to Europe as an exotic luxury for the privileged. While attempts had been made to cultivate the fruit back home, they realised it needed a tropical climate, which added to its glamour. By the end of the century it was being grown in China, the Phillippines, Java, and the west coast of Africa.

In the late 17th century an enterprising Dutch horticulturalist found a way to grow pineapples under glass and supply plants to English gardeners, heightening the craze for pineapple. A host was guaranteed prestige and status just for displaying a pineapple on the table at a dinner party, and in 1690 British-grown pineapples were fetching a guinea each at the markets – about £152 today, a price only the outrageously rich could afford.

Even by the Victoria era, pineapples were still being grown under glass in Britain, using the technology of regulating the heat using steam boilers.

Uses

To prepare pineapple, first remove the crown and base, and base side down, carefully run a sharp knife down the sides, removing the rind in strips. Cut out any leftover bits with the knife tip.

Pineapple is a great addition to a tropical fruit salsa, with chilli and coriander. Because it’s so sweet, yet acidic, it works well in sweet-and-sour dishes, or in stir fries that use salty oyster or soy sauce as the base.

Pineapple contains bromelin, an enzyme similar to papain in papaya that breaks down protein. Fresh pineapple will make dairy products separate and stop jelly from setting, but canned pineapple is fine for both these uses as the heat from the canning destroys the bromelin.

Facts

Fresh pineapple is often suggested for women in a late stage of pregnancy to help kick-start labour, as it’s thought that the bromelin may help soften the cervix.

Pineapple plants only produce about two pineapples in their life cycle.

When sea captains returned from voyages, they’d hang a pineapple from their front door or gate post as a symbol of welcome. To this day, you’ll see pineapple motifs carved into tables, chairs, church pews, and door knockers to represent welcome and hospitality.



Plums »« Persimmon: Fuyu

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