One of the most prized and popular fruits, pineapple or “ananas” has an interesting history to narrate. Originally indigenous to local Paraguayans in South America, it spread from its native land by the local Indians up through the South and Central Americas and to the West Indies. Later, it was brought to Spain when Columbus discovered Americas’ in 1493. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it spread to rest of the world by the European sailors (just like tomatoes) who carried it along with them to protect themselves from scurvy, a disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin-C.
Scientifically, it is known as Ananas comosus and belongs to the family of Bromeliaceae, in the genus; Ananas.
Pineapple is a tropical, perennial, drought-tolerant plant. It reaches up to 5-8 ft in height and spreads around about 3-4 feet radius cover. It is essentially a short, stout stem with a rosette of waxy long, needle-tipped leaves.
The plant bears several long, oval to cylindrical fruits during each season from March until June.
Botanically, the A. comosus described as a compound (multiple) fruit that develops from many small fruitlets fused together around a central core. Its pulp is juicy and fleshy with the stem serving as a supporting fibrous core. The outer skin features rough, tough, and scaly rind. The color in the ripe fruits may be yellow, orange-yellow or reddish. Internally, its juicy flesh may range from creamy white to yellow and has a mix of sweet and tart taste with rich flavor. Each fruit measures up to 12 inches in length and weighs 1 to 8 pounds or more.
Health benefits of Pineapple fruit
Fresh pineapple is low in calories. Nonetheless, it is a storehouse for several unique health promoting compounds, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
100 g fruit provides just about 50 calories; equivalent to that of apples. Its flesh contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. Nonetheless, it is a rich source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber like pectin.
Pineapple fruit contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain that digests food by breaking down protein. Bromelain also has anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that consumption of pineapple regularly helps fight against arthritis, indigestion and worm infestation.
Fresh pineapple is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin; vitamin-C. 100 g fruit contains 47.8 or 80% of this vitamin. Vitamin-C required for the collagen synthesis in the body. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the body protect from scurvy; develop resistance to combat infectious agents (boosts immunity) and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
It also contains small amount Vitamin-A (provides 58 IU per 100 g) and β -carotene levels. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties. Vitamin-A is also required maintaining healthy mucosa, skin, and is essential for vision. Studies suggest that consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids helps the human body to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Further, ananas fruit is rich in the B-complex group of vitamins like folates, thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like copper, manganese, and potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is an essential cofactor for red blood cell synthesis. Manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger.
Selection and storage
Pineapple (ananas) season lasts from March until June when fresh fruits available in the markets at their best. In the store, choose that are heavy for their size. While larger fruits will have a greater proportion of edible flesh, they make no difference in quality over a small size pineapple.
Choose fruit that should be free of soft spots, mold, bruises and darkened “eyes,” all of which may indicate that the fruit is past its prime. Some people judge freshness, ripeness, and quality by tapping a finger against the side of the fruit. A good, ripe pineapple has a dull, solid sound while a hollow thud indicates immaturity and poor quality. It stops ripening as soon as it picked; therefore, choose fruit with a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. Avoid those that smell musty, sour or fermented.
Ripe fruits perish soon if left at room temperature and should be eaten rather immediately after purchase. Moreover, since they are chill sensitive and therefore, cannot be stored in the refrigerator for long periods. However, if not readily eaten; you may clean the fruit and place the whole or cut sections wrapped inside a thin plastic cover in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
Preparation and serving method
Pineapple can be cut and peeled in many ways. Usually, the crown and the base of the fruit are chopped off with a knife. To peel the fruit, place its base side down and carefully slice off the skin, carving out any remaining “eyes” with the tip of your knife. Once the rind removed, cut the fruit into desirable chunks.
One may also use pineapple corer/slicer machine to make the job easier. While they provide a quick and convenient method for peeling and coring pineapples, sometimes, they result in a wastage of a good amount of fruit since they often cannot be adjusted for different sized fruits. Similarly, some markets offer devices that will peel and core the ananas, but once again, this process may result in wastage of some fruit.
Here are some serving tips:
Fresh ananas sections are a great addition to fruit salads and in toppings.
Fresh pineapple juice can be a refreshing intra-day drink.
It also used in the preparation of desserts, jams, and jellies.
The fruit used in a variety of delicious pineapple recipes, mainly as a flavoring ingredient.
Pineapple fruit contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain that may cause excessive uterine bleeding if consumed in large quantities during pregnancy.