PINEAPPLE

DR. S. M. ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Nov 21 - 27, 2011

Pineapple is the common name for a tropical plant and its edible fruit, which is actually a multiple fruit consisting of coalesced berries.

The Spanish name for pineapple, pina, and the root of its English name, reflects the fruit's visual similarity to the pinecone.

It was given the name pineapple due to its resemblance to a pinecone. Besides, being produced for consumption, it can be grown as an ornamental or houseplant. Some sources say that the plant will flower after about 24 months and produce a fruit during the following six months, while others indicate a 20-month timetable.

Pineapple was first discovered by Europeans in 1493 on the Caribbean island that came to be known as Guadalupe. When Columbus and other discoverers brought pineapples back to Europe, attempts were made to cultivate the sweet, prized fruit until it was realized that the fruit's need for a tropical climate inhibited its ability to flourish in this region.

By the end of the 16th century, Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced pineapples into many of their Asian, African and South Pacific colonies, countries in which the pineapple is still being grown today. Since pineapples are very perishable, and modes of transportation to bring them stateside from the Caribbean islands were relatively slow centuries ago, fresh pineapples were a rarity that became coveted by the early American colonists. While glazed, sugarcoated pineapples were a luxurious treat, it was the fresh pineapple itself that became the sought after true symbol of prestige and social class.

In fact, the pineapple, because of its rarity and expense, was such a status item in those times that all a party hostess had to do was to display the fruit as part of a decorative centerpiece, and she would be awarded more than just a modicum of social awe and recognition.

In the 18th century, pineapples began to be cultivated in Hawaii, the only state in the U.S. in which they are still grown. In addition to Hawaii, other countries that commercially grow pineapples include Thailand, the Philippines, China, Brazil, and Mexico.

Pineapples are actually not just one fruit but a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core. Each fruitlet can be identified by an "eye," the rough spiny marking on the pineapple's surface. Pineapples have a wide cylindrical shape, a scaly green, brown, or yellow skin, and a regal crown of spiny, blue-green leaves.

Pineapple can be consumed fresh, canned, or juiced and can be used in a variety of ways. It is popularly used in desserts, fruit salads (usually tropical fruit salads, but it can vary), jams, yogurts, ice creams, various candies, as a complement to meat dishes and in fruit cocktail.

The popularity of the pineapple is due to its sweet-sour taste. The core of the pineapple is continuous with the stem supporting the fruit and with the crown, a feature unique among cultivated fruits. Pineapple is used for many other things aside from consumption. In the Philippines, pineapple leaves are used as the source of a textile fiber called piņa. This fiber can be used in a variety of ways such as wallpaper and a component of furnishings.

Pineapples have exceptional juiciness and a vibrant tropical flavor that balances the tastes of sweet and tart. They are second only to bananas as America's favorite tropical fruit.

Although the season for pineapple runs from March through June, they are available year round in local markets. Pineapples are a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core.

Each fruitlet can be identified by an "eye," the rough spiny marking on the pineapple's surface. Pineapples have a wide cylindrical shape, a scaly green, brown, or yellow skin and a regal crown of spiny, blue-green leaves and fibrous yellow flesh. The area closer to the base of the fruit has more sugar content and therefore a sweeter taste and more tender texture.

Pineapple is beneficial in the following condition:

1. It regulates the gland and is found to be curative in cases of goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland); Dyspepsia (chronic digestive disturbance); Bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes.); Catarrh (secretions from mucous membranes); High blood pressure; and Arthritis (diseases of the joints).

2. Fresh pineapple juice is also used in removing intestinal worms.

3. Fresh pineapple juice has been used to combat diptheria and other infections of the throat or other parts of the body.

4. It prevents nausea (includes morning sickness and motion sickness) and constipation.

Pineapple juice has been fermented into an alcoholic beverage in the past. Due to the large amounts of natural acids (citric, malic, and tartaric) and bromelain enzyme, large amounts of fresh pineapple should not be consumed as a main dish.

On the other hand, it is these same juices in moderate amounts that aid in digestion as they closely resemble natural gastric juices. Pineapple is also a natural diuretic and helps clear mucous from bronchial tissues, and its fiber aids in elimination.

CAUTIONS

The resin in the pineapple skin may cause an itchy rash in some people. Unripe pineapple is not only inedible, it is poisonous, causing throat irritation and severe vomiting and diarrhea. Excessive consumption of the fibrous pineapple core can result in fiber balls collecting in the digestive tract.

Pineapple producing countries: The pineapple is contributes over 20 per cent of the world production of tropical fruits. Nearly 70 per cent of the pineapple is consumed as fresh fruit in producing countries. Its origin has been traced to Brazil and Paraguay in the Amazonic basin where the fruit was domesticated. Brazil, Thailand, Philippines, China are the main pineapple producers in the world supplying 52 per cent of the total output. Other important producers include India, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, Mexico, and Costa Rica and these countries provide most of the remaining fruit available (48 per cent). Since 1960, pineapple production worldwide has risen by 400 per cent.

With the introduction of the "Gold" variety, developed and patented by Fresh Del Monte in the 1990's, the production of pineapple has grown again by nearly 50 per cent since 1998. With an increased consumer demand for fresh pineapple and juice totaling nearly 30 billion pounds a year, the pineapple export industry has developed into a complex supply chain. Historically, Hawaii was the world's largest pineapple producer and source for US pineapples.

Twelve countries absorb 90 per cent of the world demand of fresh pineapple. The US leads the demand and France, Japan, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Canada, Spain, England, Korea, Netherlands, and Singapore share the rest of the supply.