Pineapple is one of God's best tasting, yet strangest creations. Although it looks like a cactus the pineapple, botanically ananas comosus, is the fruits of hundreds of individual flowers that cluster on the barb of the plant. When mature, all the pineapple's fleshy tissues swell with juice. The pineapple does not grow on a tree or a cactus, but on a 'bromeliad' with stiff leathery leaves edged with a rough edge that can cut you. These leaves grow around a centre spike we call the core. Pineapples are usually two to four pounds, but the Giant Kew type can be more than twenty pounds.
The pineapple originated in South America in southern Brazil where Indians named the fruit 'anana', meaning excellent fruit. These native indians planted pineapples with their sharp picker leaves around their villages to keep out intruders. In 1493 Columbus discovered the Carib Indians growing pineapples on the island of Guadeloupe. His sailors created the present name because the exterior appeared as a pinecone, yet the core tasted as an apple. By the mid 1500's pineapples were being grown in the West, but it took until 1640 to make it to England. Two centuries later, pineapples were being grown throughout the Caribbean chain. French King Louis the fourteenth loved the sweet fruits' taste so much he forgot his manners and cut his mouth trying to bite an unpeeled pineapple. He treasured the fruit so much glass 'greenhouses' were created to grow them. Pineapples became a status symbol as a party decoration and as a dessert.
Hawaii is almost synonymous with pineapple. Captain Cook is credited for bringing the pineapple to Hawaii in 1790 but it was probably Spanish explorers much earlier. Steamship transport in the mid 1800's made commercial production feasible. Pineapples were made available to the world when Dole began canning them in 1903. Hawaii produces ten per cent of the world's pineapple, and it is the third most canned fruit after applesauce and peaches. Thailand is the presently world's largest producer of pineapples. Trinidad's pineapples are of a superior quality and desired by the European markets.
Pineapples are usually grown from the suckers around the stem at the base of the fruit. A good home children's garden project is to plant the top of a pineapple in a pot of soil. Outdoors the soil must be worked a foot wide and deep. Some rotted manure can be placed deep in the hole before returning the soil. Plant at least two feet apart, water regularly and fertilise monthly with a high nitrogen mix. Pineapples never develop a big root system. Harvest when bright gold and can be easily twisted from the plant. If you are buying, a ripe pineapple should be firm, smell sweet with a fresh green top. It is ripe if one of its top leaves can easily be pulled out. To reduce the acid content, permit the pineapple to sit for three days before using. To increase its sweetness, salt and let sit before eating.
Pineapple is another fruit that not only tastes good, but also is good for you. Pineapple juice is chemically close to our stomach juices. Consumed moderately pineapple aids digestion. It has plenty of fibre and helps the body relieve fluids, especially mucus from nasal
passages. Never consume an unripe pineapple, as it can be poisonous causing throat irritations and diarrhoea. The juice is an excellent cooking marinade tenderising the meats while adding a tropical flavour. Two slices of a regular sized pineapple should be about a hundred grammes and has 60 calories with no fat or cholesterol. Pineapple contains vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, phosphorous, manganese and potassium. This fruit is a good source of fibre. Since it has a lot of carbs, it's great for an energy boost. A few slices are a better choice than less healthy snacks.
Pineapple contains micro-nutrients believed to prevent cancer and also break up blood clots. Pineapple juice kills intestinal worms, relieves intestinal disorders, and soothes the bile. The juice also stimulates the kidneys and aids in removing toxic elements in the body. Pineapple contains a mixture of enzymes called bromelain that helps reduce swelling by arthritis, gout, sore throat, and acute sinusitis. Bromelain also helps to prevent blood clots. It is a good food for those who have suffered from strokes or have high blood pressure. Pineapple also helps accelerate the healing of wounds due to injury or surgery. For medicinal benefits eat pineapple between meals. Eaten with meals, the enzymes are used digesting proteins.
Great for a sandwich or on biscuits as a healthy snack
Ingredients: one pineapple peeled chopped small, crush a few pieces for the juice, half a medium mild onion sliced thin and chopped, one stalk celery chopped, one pimento seasoning pepper seeded and minced, a cup of either canned tuna, boneless cooked chicken chopped, or cooked chopped pork, salt and spices to taste
Method: Mix everything together in a bowl. It is best to let sit for at least an hour in the fridge for an hour. Serve on toasted bread, roast bake, or biscuits.
PINEAPPLE AND SWEET POTATOES
Ingredients: four pounds of sweet potatoes peeled and chopped, one medium onion chopped small as possible, one clove garlic minced, one half pineapple skinned and chopped, salt and spice to taste.
Method: Put sweet potato pieces into a medium pot with four cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and lower heat. Simmer covered for twenty minutes. Drain. In the same pot combine all remaining ingredients. Cover and let sit for half an hour before serving.
Ingredients: one pineapple peeled, a quarter of a coconut – brown removed and meat grated, two TBS brown sugar, pinch of salt, half TS cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, two ounces of dark rum optional.
Method: Cut peeled pineapple in half making two cylinders. Carefully core each leaving a hollow pineapple. Do not pierce top or bottom with knife. Slice off the soft meat from the harder core and chop as small as possible. Rub cavity with a pinch of salt and let sit for about twenty minutes while you grate the cleaned, dry coconut. Mix grated coconut with pineapple from core pieces, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pack interior to the top with coconut. Pour in rum if desired, one ounce to a piece. Wrap in foil so it stands upright and bake at 350 for twenty to thirty minutes depending on size of pine. Allow to cool and serve with a spring of mint.
Shirley Hall is the author of The New Caribbean Home and Garden Handbook. She will be signing copies of her book at FT Farfan's head office, 3-5 Ibis Avenue, Ibis Acres San Juan from 8.00 am today