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Pineapple

Pineapple

The Pineapple or the (Ananas Comosus) is a tropical berry fruit. It is a multiple fruit, as multiple spirally flowers grow along the axis and each flower produces a single fleshy fruit. Each fruit overlaps the other produced by a different flower adjacent to it, thus, making the pineapple appear as a single fruit. The leaves of the tree are 20-72 inches in length and are needle tipped and bear sharp, up curved spines on their margins. The stem grows straight, and has a tuff of short leaves at the top, which is known as the crown.

A pineapple varies in colour from white to yellow and is sweet in taste. It can be had raw and is also relished when glazed or canned. It serves as an ideal dessert and is often added to salads to enhance their tastes. Pineapples are a rich source of Vitamin C and Manganese. They also contain ample amounts of vitamins B1, B6, Copper and other dietary fiber.

A Brief History

Though some research groups believe that the Pineapple is a native of South America, they were initially discovered by the Europeans in 1943, on the Caribbean island. Various travelers and discoverers brought the fruit back to Europe. Many attempts were made to grow the fruit, but all in vain, as the temperature in the European countries was not conducive for the tree to flourish. By the 16th century many Spanish and Portuguese travelers introduced the fruit in their colonies located in Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific.

Pineapples are known to be highly perishable, and therefore could not be transported to far flung places from the place of their plantations. In America, pineapples were a symbol of status, prestige and social class. A pineapple displayed as a decor in a party was a cynosure of all eyes, and brought the hosts social standing and recognition. Hawaii is the only country in USA to cultivate Pineapples. The fruit is commercially cultivated in China, Thailand, Philippines, Brazil and Mexico.

Pineapple Varieties
  • Hilo: It is a Hawaiian variety and in a variant of the Smooth Cayenne. It is cylindrical in shape and comprises of many suckers but no slips. It weighs about 2-3lbs
  • Kona Sugar Loaf: It is an extremely delicious variety, which is cylindrical in shape, has a white flesh and absolutely no woodiness at the centre. Has high sugar content, but no acid and weighs about 5-6lbs
  • Red Spanish: This variety is squarish in shape and is an ideal option for export to distant places, as it is well adapted for the same. An aromatic fruit variety, which has a yellow sweet flesh weighs around 2-4 lbs
  • Natal Queen: It is a pineapple variety having a crisp yellow flesh and a mild flavour. It is ideal for fresh consumption and also does no rot for a considerable time even after ripening
  • Pernambuco (Eleuthera): The flesh of this variety ranges from yellow to white. It is sweet and melts in the mouth, and is therefore no suited for shipping. An average fruit weighs 2-4 lbs.
  • Smooth Cayenne: A Hawaiian variety, which is cylindrical in shape, having a high sugar and acid content. It is ideal for canning and processing purposes. An average fruit of this variety weighs around 5-6 lbs and the flesh ranges from pale yellow to yellow
  • Variegated: It is a pineapple variety, where both the skin and the flesh are albino white and sweet as honey
  • Cherimoya: It is a pineapple from Taiwan, which can be pulled apart rather than sliced. It is extremely sweet and juicy.
Growing Pineapples
Pineapple trees should be grown in areas, where the temperature is warm, or is exposed to the sun. A well drained sandy loam soil with extremely high organic content is ideal for the fruit trees. The pH balance of the soil should range any where between 4.5 to 6.5, and the soil, which is not sufficiently acidic should be treated with sulfur to achieve the desired level. One should make sure that water logging does not take place, as it can seriously damage the plant, therefore an effective drainage system is a must.

Pineapple trees can withstand drought conditions, though adequate soil moisture is instrumental in good fruit production. These trees also need fertilizers rich in nitrogen and magnesium to increase the fruit size and fruit weight respectively. It is extremely essential to protect the young pineapple plants from frost, as it can adversely affect the quality of the fruit. Mealybugs spread by ants can prove to be a problem for the pineapple plants. So the best way to protect the plants from the bugs is to protect it from ants.

It is difficult to ascertain, whether a pineapple is ready for harvest or not. It one taps on the fruit, a ripe one would make dull, solid sound, whereas, an immature fruit would have a hollow thud.

Health Benefits

  • Regular consumption of pineapples provides protection against Macular Degeneration
  • Manganese and Thiamine (Vitamin B1) present in ample amounts in the fruit are essential for energy production and antioxidant defenses
  • Pineapple also provides antioxidant protection and immune support to the body
  • It also has potential anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits
  • Pineapple Strengthens Bones- The fruit has ample amounts of manganese, which is a essential mineral needed by the body to build bones and connective tissues. Including pineapple in one’s daily diet helps develop stronger bones in the young and helps in the strengthening the bones of the elderly
  • Pineapple is Good for Colds and Coughs- Taking vitamin C, when suffering from cold and cough is often advised by the doctors. Pineapples are a rich source of vitamin C, and are extremely beneficial in suppressing coughs and loosen the mucus.

Buying and Storing Pineapples

While buying a pineapple, care should be taken that the one you choose should be heavy, as the heavier fruits have more edible flesh. It should not have any soft spots, bruises or dark coloured eyes, as all these features are an indication of an over ripe fruit.

When the fruit is plucked, it immediately stops ripening, therefore one should choose the one that smells sweet and fragrant at the stem end. If it smells sour, musty or fermented, then it is definitely spoilt. The fruit can be stored at room temperature for a day or two, but then it starts ripening, therefore, it should be wrapped in a poly bag and stored in the refrigerator. It stays fresh for another 4 or 5 days.