June 27: International Pineapple Day4 min read
Pineapple, the apple that isn’t an apple, and the pine that isn’t a pine, is one of our favorite fruit.
A lush, prickly, green leafed ground fruit, is a delicious addition to just about any meal and is practically the definition of the word ‘tropical’.
Want to make something tropical?
Put a slice of this fruit somewhere in your dish! Pineapple Day is dedicated to this beloved fruit as well as the greatest myth of all… It doesn’t grow on a tree.
Didn’t know that?
You’re hardly alone, as most people think this prickly fruit hangs on a tree like a coconut!
Pineapples are actually herbaceous perennials, meaning they are leafy, not woody, plants that grow for more than two years.
These plants are so ambitious in their growth that, if you cut the fruit off of one stalk, it grows multiple more stalk called “suckers” to produce more fruit!
Yes, more than one pineapple per plant.
Since their discovery they have been transported all over the world, as one of their unique traits is that, once harvested, they tend to not continue to ripen. This gives them an amazing shelf life and lets them remain stored on a shelf for quite some time.
Actually Its history is far more interesting and convoluted than you might think.
It’s not simply the ingredient of piña coladas and fruit salads, as the humble pineapple is far more historically important than that!
Pineapples are native to South America, the Latin name for the fruit is ‘ananas comosus’, which originally comes from Tupi people, meaning “fragrant and excellent fruit.”
Pineapples first came to Europe in the 16th century, brought by none other than that intrepid traveller and explorer, Christopher Columbus, who discovered them in Guadeloupe in 1493 and brought them back to Spain. They had been cultivated in Guadeloupe by the population who loved their tasty and juicy sweetness, and of course Europeans went wild for this exotic delicacy! A British colonist, Richard Ligon, who had a sugarcane plantation in Barbados, wrote at the time that the pineapple was, far beyond the choicest fruits of Europe.
From the moment that they were introduced to Britain in the 15th century, it became immediately clear that they could not be cultivated in the unsuitable British climate.
People still tried though for nearly two hundred years, and were finally able to succeed by using innovative hot-houses in the 18th century.
They were also famously difficult to transport from the colonies without spoiling, therefore due to their rarity, they became insanely popular and a status symbol in the 16th and 17th centuries.
In fact, only the incredibly wealthy could afford such a prize: during the height of its popularity pineapples would sell for as much as $8000 in today’s money.
So famous and coveted did they become that they are actually present in a portrait of Charles II. The iconic painting ‘Charles II presented with a pineapple’ (c 1677) shows Charles II being presented with a pineapple by his gardener John Rose.
Charles is attributed as having given the pineapple its contemporary name, the ‘King Pine’ and, in this period throughout the coming centuries this is how the fruit is referred to in literature.
They became a sign of hospitality and of generosity. Pineapples would be the centrepiece at dinner parties, not eaten but viewed, almost revered.
And it seems some would even rent a pineapple for an evening and carry it around like an accessory!
It was also considered an erotic and even sinful delicacy, something titillating and tantalising, or something out of Eden itself. Some even argued that this was the fruit that caused Adam to fall.
Eventually, as with most things, the pineapple’s celebrity faded.
In the 18th century they were more easily imported from the colonies and were more readily cultivated in Britain and not only. They were no longer scarce and coveted, becoming more commonplace and quotidian.
How to celebrate?
Pineapples are useful in so many things, from a stand-alone food all on their own, to producing a very tasty fruit beverage full of vitamin C.
So, this day is best celebrated by consuming this delicious fruit.
You can have it in any number of ways, including freshly cut and eaten in slices….or you can use it to make an American favorite, the pineapple upside down cake, that’s a delicious cake which you bake with slices of pineapple laid in the bottom of a pan along with a sugary mixture that becomes the perfect topping when baked, then you turn the cake out of the pan onto a plate.
If today today we are likely to see pineapples even in tins, on the side of a cocktail glass, or some slices on your pizza, at one time they were too expensive to even dream of eating them! They were simply to be admired and lusted after as they adorned a royal table, or a King’s elbow!
Images from web – Google Research