Pineapples in Paradise

Love is like a pineapple “ sweet and indefinable” (anon)

Ananas cosmosus is to the botanist, what simple pineapples are to you and me.

Anana, in fact is an old Caribbean word meaning “excellent fruit.” This fruit is devoured with relish universally, though only grown in abundance throughout the tropical regions.

Most of the world views the pineapple, unfortunately, in a can as slices or chunks wallowing in its own juice, whereas the West Indians and their tourists alike get to taste the real, fresh product that comes straight up, or as a component in many attractive dishes.

pineapple1A native of Brazil, this aristocratic plant was domesticated in what is now northern Paraguay and spread into the Caribbean with the migratory tract of Guarani and Carib Indians; the ensuing commerce between the tribes and various local peoples resulted in the pineapple being harvested on almost every island in the region. It flourishes so well here, not just because of the ideal cultivable climate, but more so because of its resistance to the hurricanes that traditionally ravage banana and papaya crops. Its armour-like shell, rotund shape and ground level growing position make it as hardy as any plant in the Caribbean.

Pineapples growing wild have always been considered inedible, so through the centuries, with sublime husbandry, great strides have been made to get the fruit “ taste wise that is at to where it’s at today.” Indeed, in 1820 a shipment of ananas from Jamaica were sent to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew where the plants were cross bred and “tweaked” to improve the sweetness, subsequently the new hybrids were returned to various Caribbean locations.

In many facets of life, rivalry between the islands is commonplace and pineapple superiority is no exception, with each territory claiming to have the most succulent product and appetizing allure. From the Dominican Republic to Guyana, the colour, size and lush tropical sweetness of the ripe fruit can be so different, that coming to a preference for one or another becomes a personal thing.

pineapple2

There are many varieties world wide, but just a few dominate the market. As far as the Caribbean is concerned, the Red Spanish is the most common type. This has a square-like shape, a weight of 3 to 5 pounds and has acquired indigenous names such as the Antiguan Black renowned for its unique taste the Dominican Green and Guyana Joe,etc. The Cayenne is another popular version.

A good pineapple should be fragrant when sniffed at the stem end and bruise free. After picking, the fruit merely ages, never developing more sweetness or juice it will get softer if left at room temperature for a day or two before serving.

Your Caribbean vacation would be nothing without the ubiquitous pina colada, plus many other in-house pineapple concoctions. If you fancy something a little different try this:

Take a large pineapple, cut off the top and bottom. With a long sharp knife, vertically cut around the fruit core, without damaging the shell. Push out the whole core and cut into thin rounds. Put the rounds back into the shell, place in a bowl and pour your measure of Cointreau and/or Grand Marnier over the fruit and let it trickle through. Put in the refrigerator. Pour residue from the bowl over slices every two hours. Guaranteed scrumptious
!

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