Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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 30 or more long, spined and pointed leaves surrounding a thick stem. The fruit was named "pineapple" because of its resemblance to a pine cone. The native Tupi word for the fruit was anana, meaning "excellent fruit." Hummingbirds are its natural pollinators.
The pineapple is an old symbol of hospitality and can often be seen in carved decorations.
The pineapple 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.
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 odor of pineapple at the bottom of the fruit.
Pineapple contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain, which digests food. Pineapple juice can be used as a marinade for meat. The enzymes in pineapples can interfere with some food preparation, such as jelly. Some have claimed that pineapple has benefits for some intestinal disorders while others claim that it helps to induce childbirth when a baby is overdue.
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 2001 Thailand produced 1.979 million tonnes, the Philippines 1.618 million tonnes and Brazil 1.43 million tonnes. Total world production in 2001 was 14.220 million tonnes. The primary exproters of fresh pineapples in 2001 were Costa Rica, 322 000 tonnes, Côte d'Ivoire, 188 000 tonnes and the Phillipines, 135 000 tonnes.
In commercial farming flowering can be artificially induced, and the early harvesting of the main fruit can encourage the development of a second crop of smaller fruits.
Random Fact: Every pineapple has the exact same amount of hexagonal sections on it, no matter the size or shape.
- USDA Hawaii Agricultural Statistics - Pineapple yields 2000-2004
- FAO. Tropical Fruits Commodity Notes, 2003
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