The Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical plant and its fruit, native to Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay. The plant is a bromeliad (Family Bromeliaceae), a short, herbaceous perennial with thirty or more long, spined and pointed leaves surrounding a thick stem. Hummingbirds are the natural pollinators.
The single fruit develops from many smaller berries fusing together (called a multiple-accessory fleshy fruit). It is large and ovoid with a tough, spikey, waxy shell of many hexagonal sections, containing large amounts of white or yellow flesh with a tough, fibrous core. Depending on variety, the fruit can be up to 30 cm long and weigh more than 4 kg.
The pineapple spread from its original area through cultivation, and by the time of Christopher Columbus it grew throughout South and Central America and the West Indies. Columbus may have taken a sample back to Europe. The Spanish introduced it into the Philippines, Hawai'i (introduced in the early 19th century, first commercial plantation 1886) and Guam. The fruit was successfully cultivated in European hothouses beginning in 1720.
Common cultivated varieties include Red Spanish, Hilo, Smooth Cayenne, St. Michael, Kona Sugarloaf, Natal Queen, and Pernambuco. The flesh is very tart, except for varieties such as the Del Monte Gold which are bred for sweetness.
Southeast Asia dominates world production: in 1999 Thailand produced 2.331 m tonnes and the Philippines 1.495 m tonnes. Total world production in 1999 was 13.147 million tonnes.
A pineapple plant in flower. Note the purplish flowers
blooming around the upper part of the developing fruit.
The fruit was named "pineapple" because of its resemblance to a pine cone.
Pineapple is commonly used in desserts and other types of fruit dishes, or served on its own. Fresh pineapple is often somewhat expensive as the tropical fruit is delicate and difficult to ship. It will not ripen once harvested, so must be harvested ripe and brought to the consumer without delay. Therefore, pineapple is most widely available canned.
Signs of a ripe pineapple include:
- flesh that is firm but yielding;
- leaves that can be readily removed with a sharp tug;
- an odour of pineapple at the bottom of the fruit.