piIt started in 1493. Columbus saw his first pineapple on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. In his book, Why We Eat What We Eat, Raymond Sokolov, in the chapter entitled, Columbus the Unwitting, relays the explorer’s description of the pineapple. “ … they are like the artichoke plant, but four times as tall [which] gives the fruit the shape of a pine cone, twice as big, which fruit is excellent, and it can be cut with a knife like a turnip, and it seems to be very wholesome.” From that year until plenty of refrigerated ships plied the seas, there followed a massive pineapple frenzy:
So appealing to the eye, so symetrical, so delicious, this member of the orchid family captured the imaginations of notables of both the Old and New World. Seafaring captains bore them as trophies from long journeys signifying a triumphant return home. They impaled pineapples in the front of their homes prominently symbolizing, “Visitors Welcome.” Soon architects worked the haunting pineapple shape into gracious entrance columns, stair-rail finials, gate posts, roof-top weather vanes and door knockers. Welcome mats and the privacy of bedrooms were also “given” locations for pineapple art.
The juicy fruit was incorporated into Southern hospitality with intricate pineapple needlework on fine linens for gracious ladies. Pineapples were indeed the gemstones on exotic groaning boards where enlightened conversations went on into the depths of night. They fetched high prices due to cost of growing and transporting. So sought after, the prickly fruits were frequently rented to hosts by the day!
This popularity of the pineapple was further reinforced when The Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Motel Association chose it for their symbol of hospitality.
Though the pineapple originated in Brazil and Paraguay prior to Columbus’ introduction in the West Indies, it wasn’t until 1777 that Captain Cook introduced the fruit to the Pacific islands. James Dole opened his pineapple canning facility in the 1920s. This industry was the area’s largest for 40 years. Now, pineapples are imported from the Canaries and Azores, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the west coast of Africa.
Due to the enzymes they carry, pineapple makes an excellent marinade which tenderizes meats. Care must be taken to not over-marinate meat; the enzyme is so powerful it will make meat fall apart. Even pineapple workers must wear gloves to protect their hands from constant exposure. The enzyme also keeps gelatin from setting, so pineapple is not good for fruit jellies. If the pineapple is cooked, the enzyme action disappears.
Rich in vitamin C and Manganese, the pineapple is actually not oneruit, but many. The diamond-shaped segments of the skin and the eyes are actually more than a hundred individual seedless fruits. The prickly short hair-like extensions from the pineapple eyes are in fact the remains of flowers that once bloomed on the pineapple spike.
This low-calorie fruit doesn’t grow on trees. It belongs to the orchid or bromeliad, family and rises from the center of the plant on a single spike encircled with swordlike leaves. It is not the only bromeliad to produce edible fruit, the feijoa is another.
To chose a good one, select one with healthy leaves on top. If it smells fragrant and sweet it will taste that way too. Pineapples will not continue to ripen after picking but will instead begin to decay after 4 weeks.
Conquering the pineapple you have selected is simple: (Too many people tend to over-complicate the process and settle for canned pineapple.)
Lay the pineapple on its side and cut off its top and base.
Stand pineapple on its big end. Hold it steady with a large carving fork inserted into the top.
With a large carving knife, start slicing the rough outer skin away. Leave the spots for later.
Continue to turn the fork until the outer skin is gone all around.
Next, repeat the above until the “eyes” or spots are gone, sometimes a smaller knife works better.
If you plan to use all of the pineapple in smoothies, you’re all set once you lay it on its side and slice it.
If you wish the core removed, either use a coring implement on the standing fruit, or quarter the pineapple, lengh-wise, and slice downward on the “corner” which contains one-quarter of the cord.
Store tightly, use within a few days.
In Southeast Asia, half-ripe pineapples are used in sour soups.
Excellent in Indonesian and Malaysian curries
Make a summer drink, by boiling the peel and trimmings with water and sugar, then chill for a lemonade-like refresher.
Makes great salsas.
Grill or broil slices, add some green pepper.
Add to chicken or pork salad.
Make pineapple sauce instead of apple sauce.
Add pineapple wedges to meat or poultry on the grill.
Cook carrots in pineapple juice.
Delicious in dishes such as Indian chutney, South American flan, Indonesian rice, and in the North American favorites, pineapple upside-down cake and baked ham.