A Delightful International Fruit
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN MEXICO
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS and his crew were likely the first Europeans to taste it during their exploration of the West Indies in 1493. It was sent to the king of Spain, and he also was delighted with its taste. Sailors made it popular throughout the Americas and, in 1548, took it to the Philippine Islands for cultivation.
Later, about 1555, this delightful fruit traveled to France. By the 1700’s, it was already proudly displayed on the tables of some European kings as a luxurious fruit. It became so popular that it then spread to the rest of Europe and into Asia and Africa. At present, it is harvested mainly in Brazil, Hawaii, Mexico, the Philippines, Thailand, and a few other countries that have suitable climate and soil.
Thus after some five centuries of traveling, it has reached places far away from America, its native region. Do you know the fruit we are talking about? It is the delightful pineapple.
In Mexico it was known as matzatli, in the Caribbean ananá, and in Central and South America nana. It seems that the Spaniards were the ones who called it piña because of its likeness to the fruit (cone) of the pine tree. Today in Spanish it is known as piña or ananás, while in English it is known as pineapple. Regardless of its name, those who have tasted it agree that it delights the palate.
The Pineapple and Its Plant
What does a pineapple look like? It is oval shaped and set on the center of the plant. The fruit is covered with a hard shell, and at the top, there is a crown formed by numerous small, semihard green leaves. The pineapple plant itself has long, sword-shaped leaves growing in various directions from the stem. The plant grows from two to three feet high [60 to 90 cm], and the fruit can weigh from four to eight pounds [2 to 4 kg].
When it is still small, it is similar to the pinecone of the pine tree, and the skin stays a purple color. It becomes green when it has matured, and it usually turns yellowish-green, greenish-orange, or reddish when it has ripened. When the pulp is ripe, it has a sweet flavor—aromatic and juicy.
How Is It Cultivated?
How do you cultivate a pineapple? First of all, soil such as is found in tropical places is necessary—sandy, rich in organic material, acidic, and low in salt, with a high level of moisture. Then, it is necessary to plant one of the small shoots that spring up around the base of the fruit and that remain in the plant after the fruit is harvested. Or the crown of the pineapple itself can be cut off and planted. One will have to be patient to be able to enjoy its fruitage though, because it takes over a year for it to mature and produce a harvest.
Antonio, who has been working for more than 25 years in the cultivation of pineapples, explains a certain technique that is used: “It is necessary to put a small amount of calcium carbide in the center of the plant before the fruit begins to grow. This is done so that all the pineapples can be harvested at the same time, since left to grow naturally, some will grow faster than others and the harvest will be more difficult.”
When the pineapple is mature but not yet ripe, it must be covered to keep it from being burned by the sun. It is covered with paper or with the leaves of the same plant. After the required time has elapsed, the pineapple is ready for harvest. Cut the shell off, and enjoy it in slices! But be careful. Eating the core of the fruit can produce irritation of the tongue. That is the reason why some people enjoy only the pulp and throw the center away.
If you want to taste a sweet and juicy pineapple, do not be influenced by its outer appearance. While showing us one of them, Antonio explains: “Some people choose a pineapple by the color of its peeling, whether it is green or yellow. But the fruit can be ripe even if its shell is green. You should strike it with your fingers. If it produces a hollow, or empty, sound, its pulp will be white and its flavor will be insipid. But if it produces a firm sound, as if it were full of water, then it is ready to eat—sweet and juicy.” There are several varieties of this fruit, but the most popular is the one called smooth Cayenne (Cayena).
A Real Delight
Besides enjoying the delightful flavor of the juice or of the fruit in slices, you may enjoy it in a syrup, which is available canned in some countries. Also, the pineapple contains certain nutrients like carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins, mainly A and C.
In Mexico you can enjoy a refreshing drink made out of the peelings of the pineapple. To make it yourself, keep the peelings in a glass container with water and sugar for two or three days. Once this is fermented, you can serve it as a cool drink over ice. It is a very refreshing beverage called tepache and has a sweet-and-sour flavor. Would you like a glass? In the Philippines, pineapple is cultivated to obtain fibers from its leaves. These are used to make a dull-white, transparent, and very fine fabric. It is used to make handkerchiefs, towels, belts, shirts, and children’s and ladies’ dresses.
In the past few centuries, the pineapple has been exported to many countries where it is not grown. All those who enjoy its taste hope that it will continue its journey around the world, delighting mankind.
[Picture Credit Line on page 20]
Pineapple. Century Dictionary