Thursday, 17 March 2016


“He is the very pine-apple of politeness.” - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is in the Bromeliaceae family and is a herbaceous perennial, which grows to 1.0 to 1.5 meters tall, although sometimes it can be taller. In appearance, the plant itself has a short, stocky stem with tough, waxy leaves. When creating its fruit, it usually produces up to 200 flowers, although some large-fruited cultivars can exceed this. Once it flowers, the individual fruits of the flowers join together to create what is commonly referred to as a pineapple. After the first fruit is produced, side shoots (called 'suckers' by commercial growers) are produced in the leaf axils of the main stem. These may be removed for propagation, or left to produce additional fruits on the original plant. Commercially, suckers that appear around the base are cultivated.

The pineapple plant has 30 or more long, narrow, fleshy, trough-shaped leaves with sharp spines along the margins that are 30 to 100 centimetres long, surrounding a thick stem. In the first year of growth, the axis lengthens and thickens, bearing numerous leaves in close spirals. After 12 to 20 months, the stem grows into a spike-like inflorescence up to 15 cm long with over 100 spirally arranged, trimerous flowers, each subtended by a bract. Flower colours vary, depending on variety, from lavender, through light purple to red. The ovaries develop into berries, which coalesce into a large, compact, multiple accessory fruit. The fruit of a pineapple is arranged in two interlocking helices, eight in one direction, thirteen in the other, each being a Fibonacci number. The pineapple carries out CAM photosynthesis, fixing carbon dioxide at night and storing it as the acid malate, then releasing it during the day aiding photosynthesis.

The plant is indigenous to South America and is said to originate from the area between southern Brazil and Paraguay; however, little is known about the origin of the domesticated pineapple. The natives of southern Brazil and Paraguay spread the pineapple throughout South America, and it eventually reached the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, where it was cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs. Columbus encountered the pineapple in 1493 on the leeward island of Guadeloupe. He called it piña de Indes, meaning “pine of the Indians”, and brought it back with him to Spain, thus making the pineapple the first bromeliad to be introduced by humans outside of the New World. The fruit is said to have been first introduced in Hawaii when a Spanish ship brought it there in the 1500s. The Portuguese took the fruit from Brazil and introduced it into India by 1550. The Spanish introduced the plant into the Philippines, Hawaii (introduced in the early 19th century, first commercial plantation 1886), Zimbabwe and Guam.

The pineapple was brought to northern Europe by the Dutch from their colony in Surinam. The first pineapple to be successfully cultivated in Europe, is said to have been grown by Pieter de la Court at Meerburg in 1658. In England, a huge “Pineapple stove” needed to grow the plants had been built at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1723. In France, King Louis XV was presented with a pineapple that had been grown at Versailles in 1733. Catherine the Great ate pineapples grown on her own estates before her death in 1796.

Because of the expense of direct import and the enormous cost in equipment and labour required to grow them in a temperate climate, using hothouses called “pineries”, pineapples soon became a symbol of wealth. They were initially used mainly for display at dinner parties, rather than being eaten, and were used again and again until they began to rot. By the second half of the 18th century, the production of the fruit on British estates had become the subject of great rivalry between wealthy aristocrats. John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore built a hothouse on his estate surmounted by a huge stone cupola 14 metres tall in the shape of the fruit; it is known as the “Dunmore Pineapple”.

The flesh and juice of the pineapple are used in cuisines around the world. In many tropical countries, pineapple is prepared, and sold on roadsides as a snack. It is sold whole, or in halves with a stick inserted. Whole, cored slices with a cherry in the middle are a common garnish on hams in the West. Chunks of pineapple are used in desserts such as fruit salad, as well as in some savoury dishes, including pizza toppings and a grilled pineapple ring on a hamburger. Crushed pineapple is used in yogurt, jam, sweets, and ice cream. The juice of the pineapple is served as a beverage, and it is also the main ingredient in cocktails such as the piña colada and in the drink tepache. In a 100 gram serving, raw pineapple is an excellent source of manganese (44% Daily Value) and vitamin C (58% Daily Value), but otherwise contains no essential nutrients in significant content.

In the Caribbean, Europe and North America, the pineapple became associated with the return of ships from extended voyages, and an emblem of welcome and hospitality that made its way into contemporary art. In the language of flowers, a pineapple flower means “welcome” and “you are perfect”. In the television series “Psych”, the writers have included a pineapple in every episode as a running joke, and there is a website dedicated to compiling a list of every pineapple shown. During the Chinese New Year, the pineapple represents wealth, luck, excellent fortune and gambling luck.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

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