15 Unusual Facts About the Pineapple
Love is like a pineapple, sweet and indefinable.— Piet Pieterszoon Hein
The Pineapple has been called the King of Fruits
The pineapple, a pretty tropical fruit introduced to Europeans in the late 1400s, soon developed the distinction of being the most beautiful fruit in the world, as well as the most delicious, and simply having a pineapple bestowed high status upon the one possessing it.
To learn more about the pineapple, please keep reading!
1. In 1496, along with tame parrots, tomatoes, tobacco and pumpkins, Christopher Columbus brought back a load of pineapples from the New World. Fortunately, at least one of them didn’t rot and was given to the Spanish King, Ferdinand II of Aragon. Peter Martyr, tutor to the Spanish princes, said King Ferdinand tasted the pineapple and declared that “its flavor excels all other fruits.”
2. The pineapple, or Ananas cosmosus, which means tufted, excellent fruit, as recorded by writer and explorer André Thevet in 1555, was eventually called a pineapple because of its resemblance to pine cones.
3. Soon after coming to Europe, just the appearance of the pineapple sent people to rapturous heights. Ferdinand’s envoy to Panama, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, wrote, “It is the most beautiful of any fruits I have seen. I do not suppose there is in the whole world any other of so exquisite and lovely appearance.”
4. Around 1500, Renaissance Europe was a land where common sweets were hard to come by. Cane sugar was expensive and hard to find and orchard-grown fruits could only be eaten when in season. So the pineapple may have become to many Europeans the most delicious thing they had ever tasted.
5. Since the Bible, classical texts and other Old World literature didn’t mention the pineapple, anybody could say what they wanted about the pineapple without concern for cultural, political or religious associations. French priest Father Du Tertre said it “was the king of fruits.” And French physician Pierre Pomet declared that the pineapple was the finest food in the world!
6. By the middle of the seventeenth century, depictions of the pineapple often showed it with a crown around the top, enhancing its symbolism with royalty and the realm of God. Moreover, since it had come from far away and few people had seen it - much less actually tasted one - a mythical quality became attached to the pineapple.
7. Eventually Charles II of England gained access to pineapples via England’s colonies in the West Indies. Now feeling very proud of his accomplishment in international trade, the King adopted the pineapple as his primary status symbol. Nevertheless, pineapples still couldn’t be grown in northern climes - it was simply too cold there.
8. Also wanting to cash in on the pineapple market, the Netherlands constructed the first greenhouse in 1658, beginning what could be called the pineapple wars in Europe. Unfortunately, growing pineapples in greenhouses was an expensive, labor-intensive endeavor. Each pineapple took four years to bloom and cost $8,000 in current American money. Interestingly, pineapples were often not eaten; they were simply showed to admiring people until they rotted.
9. In spite of the cost in equipment and labor, aristocrats throughout Europe and Russia from the late 1600s and throughout the 1700s competed to grow the best pineapples, thereby maintaining their status as some of the wealthiest folks around. In fact, Englishman John Murray, the Fourth Earl of Dunmore, built a hothouse covered by a pineapple-shaped stone cupola 14 meters high, which became known as the Dunmore Pineapple.
10. By the 1770s, the word pineapple became synonymous with anything that was the best of the best, as in Richard Sheridan’s play, The Rivals, in which a character compliments a man by declaring, “He is the very pineapple of politeness.”
11. Indigenous to South America and then eventually transplanted in Mexico, the Caribbean and elsewhere, pineapples are pollinated by hummingbirds and bats in the wild, but cultivated pineapples are pollinated by hand and their seeds retained only for plant breeding.
12. By the eighteenth century, companies in England began capitalizing on the pineapple craze by adding pineapple motifs to tableware, furniture, carriages, wallpaper, paintings and stone-built statues, all of which seemingly providing proof that the owners of such fine objects had class, taste, high standing and even great wealth.
13. The pineapple is a rich source of manganese, which helps build and maintain bone strength, and it also has plenty of vitamin C. It also contains beta-carotene, B vitamins, potassium, sodium, vitamin A and is a good source of fiber. It also contains bromelain, an enzyme extract mentioned by enthusiasts of folk medicine, though its clinical application is currently limited to use as a salve to help remove dead tissue in serious burns. By the way, bromelain is responsible for that mouth discomfort some may feel while eating this pungent fruit.
The pineapple may have numerous other possible health benefits: its fruit or juice may aid digestion, act as an anti-inflammatory agent and reduce the pain of arthritis. It may also be an anti-clotting, anti-hypertension and an anti-cancer substance.
14. Since the early 1900s, when pineapple cultivation began in the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii has been associated with pineapples, though production of pineapples there has diminished somewhat in recent times. In fact, if some food or drink has pineapple in it, it’s often considered Hawaiian.
15. The recent emergence of the pineapple in pop culture seems connected to its association with the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil and its subsequent interest in South America, but “King-Pine” has been included on wallpaper and statement socks since in 2014.
Sources used for this story include Wikipedia’s article about the pineapple and the July 27, 2018 edition of The Week, and its story “How the Pineapple became so Popular.”
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© 2018 Kelley Marks