The pineapple was probably domesticated thousands of years ago by the Indians of Paraguay and/or southern Brazil, where it grew wild. In the wake of their conquests and seafaring, they spread it throughout South America and the Caribbean, where the natives began to grow it.
It was in Guadeloupe in 1493 that Christopher Columbus became acquainted with the pineapple, which the inhabitants of the islands offered him as a sign of welcome. After tasting it, he wrote: "It has the shape of a pine apple [then used for pine cone], but is twice the size, and its taste is excellent. It can be cut with a knife like a turnip and it seems very healthy". The natives of this island called it ana, which meant perfume. Portuguese settlers called it ananas, and it is known by this name in most languages, although it is was given the name "pineapple" in English.
The Portuguese and Spanish spread it to many regions: Spain (where it was presented to the Court in 1535), Asia, India, the Philippines and Africa, where it has been grown since the end of the 15th century, while attempts were made to grow it in greenhouses in Holland, Great Britain, and France, but without great success.
The pineapple remained a rarity until the 20th century, when its production was developed on an industrial scale in the Antilles, Africa, and Hawaii. Its transport in specially equipped cargo ships popularized what was an extremely rare fruit. Pineapples are often transported by air nowadays.
The ripeness of a pineapple is judged by its smell: a very strong smell means that it has begun to ferment.
Its scales should be unbruised. The smaller the scales and the more visible the nerves, the riper and sweeter the pineapple. Smooth Cayenne pineapples are slightly more orange towards the crown when they are ripe.
The leaves should be green and flexible, and with a fresh smell.
The sound a pineapple makes when you tap it: if it is dull, the pineapple is ripe; if it sounds hollow, it has little juice.
Fresh. Frozen in pices. Dried in slices or in pieces. In juice (pasteurized or frozen), in frozen puree. Candied.
Before use, not only should the pineapple's skin be removed, but also the fibrous core and “eyes”, the little black spots that are scattered about it.
Pineapple can be added to salads, used as an accompaniment for pork, and skewered with meat in kabobs. It is sautéed with pork as a filling for tortillas. It is added to fish, meat, and vegetable curries In Malaysia, to omelet soufflé in Polynesia, and it is cooked in rice in Thailand. Pineapple slices are dried in the oven.
As a dessert, it is used as a filling for tarts and tartlets, flavoring for ice cream and sorbet, part of fruit skewers, baked, doughnut filling, and fried.
Whole pineapples should not be refrigerated (they ferment at temperatures lower than 7ºC), but can be stored at room temperature for several days, depending on their degree of ripeness.
Pineapples contain some carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and a lot of fiber. Their organic acids, which give them their acid taste, stimulate digestive secretions.
They also contain bromelain, an enzyme that became famous a few decades ago because they were attributed with the (seemingly false) reputation of making you thin. This enzyme aids the digestions of proteins by breaking them down. It can also soften meat.
. Smooth Cayenne: firm flesh, very juicy, but also somewhat fibrous, sweet and sour at the same time. This variety, grown almost everywhere, is the most prevalent on the world market.
Large fruit, often weighing more than 2 kg.
. Red Spanish: fairly acidic flesh, a little fibrous, and highly perfumed. Medium-size, its rind is red, hence the name. Commonly grown in Cuba, but also in other Caribbean countries and Central America.
. Pernambuco: soft flesh, sweet but slightly acid. Medium-size, grown in South and Central America and in Malaysia.
. Mordilonus-Perolera-Malpure: rather dry and brittle flesh. Large fruit that can reach a weight of 4 kg. Grown in South and Central America.
. Sugar Loaf pineapple: firm flesh, very sweet, and perfumed. This elongated fruit is mainly grown in Guadeloupe, where it originated, and also in Benin.
. Queen: less juicy flesh, sweeter, a little crisp. Smaller fruit, the leaves of this plant are lacy. It is mainly grown on the islands of Réunion and Mauritius, and in South Africa.
. Victoria: an improved variety of Queen, it is also small, highly perfumed, acid and sweet, just as it should be. Grown on the island of Réunion, it is mainly found in winter.
In North America, Hawaii Gold, a variety produced in Hawaii, is sweeter and less acid than the Smooth Cayenne.
Importation of different varieties means that pineapples are available in the market all year round.