Among Americans, the sweet taste and juiciness of pineapples has made them the most popular tropical fruit next to bananas.
Pineapple was derived from piña, a name supplied by the Spanish, who thought the fruit resembled a pinecone. It probably originated in South America and from there it was transplanted to the Caribbean islands where it was discovered by Columbus in 1493. By 1600, early Europeans had carried the pineapple as far as China and the Philippines, and in the eighteenth century it was introduced into the Hawaiian Islands, eventually becoming their principal fruit crop.
A pineapple is not one fruit but 100–200 fruitlets fused together around a central core. It can take nearly three years for a single pineapple to reach maturity. It is the only edible fruit of its kind, the Bromeliads.
Pineapple has been used for centuries for a variety of ailments. Modern research indicates that bromelain, an enzyme found in both the stem and fruit, aids in digestion and may have serious anti-inflammatory effects, reducing the symptoms of arthritis. In addition, pineapple contains substantial amounts of vitamin C. One cup of fresh pineapple chunks provides 25 mg, 40% of the daily adult requirement. It also offers useful amounts of other nutrients, including thiamine, a B vitamin involved in energy production, folate, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and manganese, important for antioxidant defense. Pineapple is also high in soluble fiber.
Like melons, pineapples have no built-in reserves of starch that convert to sugar—the starch is stored in the stem of the plant rather than in the fruit itself. Just before the fruit ripens completely, the starch converts to sugar and enters the fruit. Once the fruit has been harvested, it won’t get any sweeter, so most growers ripen pineapples on the plant to a point where they are almost fully ripe, with a high sugar content and plenty of juice, then quickly ship to market.
The sweet and tangy flavor make fresh pineapple a delicious dessert choice. Peel, quarter, and stick on a toothpick or skewer with pitted cherries, strawberry and banana slices, grapes. Combine in a salad with bananas, oranges, mangoes, papayas, kiwi, and strawberries. Use the juice to sweeten vegetables, particularly winter squashes or sweet potatoes. Enjoy in smoothies or ice creams. If fresh pineapple is not as sweet as hoped, salvage it by cutting it into thick slices and broil until hot.
When serving pineapple on its own, add mint, cardamom, fresh or ground ginger and a splash of fresh squeezed orange juice.
In European countries the pineapple was considered a rare and coveted treat. As it was an honor to be served pineapple, the fruit eventually became a universal symbol of hospitality.
Pineapple Coconut Sorbet
|2 cups frozen pineapple chunks||1 Tbsp. maple syrup or raw honey|
|1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste||¼ cup coconut milk or cream, chilled|
|1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, or to taste|
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth or chunky.
Serve immediately in a bowl, or spoon on whole grain waffles or cooked cereal.
Serve as soft or place in the freezer to harden.