Monday, November 12, 2012

All About Pineapple in India

Pineapple is a quintessential tropical fruit, evoking images of relaxing beaches, swaying palm trees and refreshing umbrella-topped cocktails. The fruit is well liked in India, though it is not a feature of many dishes as it is in other Asian countries like Thailand and Malaysia.

Origin of Pineapple
As explained in the book, “History of Food,” Pineapple’s origin is Brazil and Paraguay. Europe’s first knowledge of the fruit came about when Columbus came to Guadaloupe in 1493, and word since spread to the Spanish and Portuguese voyagers. When the Spanish brought the pineapple to Charles V during his reign between 1500 and 1558, he found the fruit utterly disgusting (partly due to its spoilage while in transit).  Like so many other fruits, however, it quickly became en vogue in Europe’s aristocratic green houses by the late 18th century.

India has grown the fruit for centuries: In 1548, the Portuguese traders brought seeds to India after visiting the nearby Indonesian islands. In fact, missionaries from Australia first imported their plants from India’s soils during the early 1800s.

Some sources, however, question this Western narrative.  They contend that pineapple has existed in India for thousands of years. In the book, “Ancient India: History and Culture,” the authors explain that pineapple was introduced during the Maurya (322 to 185 BC) and Gupta Empire (320 to 550 CE). The oceanic branch of the Mongolian immigrants was thought to bring goods like the out-rigger canoe and pineapple.

Others, like anthropologist Gunnar Thompson, state that pineapples existed in ancient Egypt as early as Queen Hatshepsut’s reign from 1492 to 1458 BC. Evidence of pineapple and corn is painted on old murals, suggesting that the Egyptians visited the New World by ship over 3,000 years ago.

Availability of Pineapple in India
A 2009 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization states that India is the world’s 7th largest pineapple producer in the world, cultivating 1,314 thousand metric tons. The country grows many varieties, but roughly seven of commercial importance.

Pineapple grows in the country’s humid, high-rainfall regions along the Southern peninsula and the hilly areas in Northeastern India. Areas that grow the fruit on a large scale commercially include Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, West Bengal, Karnataka, Kerala, and Goa; to a lesser scale, Gujarat, Orissa, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Pineapple’s main season is from July through September, with a second minor crop bearing fruit from September through December.

Where to find Pineapple in India
Pineapple is easy to find in India. Save for small pushcarts, shops of every size and quality purvey them. Just as coconut water vendors open the fruit and provide a straw, it’s customary for some stores to hack off the stem and shave the pineapple for their customers.

The quality of pineapples varies throughout the season. Some are golden and bursting with flavor, while others are sold green and have little sweet, edible flavor.

Checking for Ripeness in Pineapple
Checking for a pineapple’s ripeness involves all of the senses. Visually, most ripe pineapples lose their dark green or brownish color and give to a golden, sometimes orange hue. Ripe pineapples are also aromatic: hold one up to the nose, and it should have a sweet aroma indicative of its taste. The most fragrant part of the fruit is its bottom, or, the end farthest away from its spiky top. The size of a pineapple has no bearing on its quality, but a good pineapple feels heavy for its size. The spikes should not be hard to the touch but should give slightly. Pull one of the leaves near the fruit: If it pulls off easily, it’s ready for consumption. If not, give it more time. Some Hawaiians also strike the bottom with the palm of their hand: If the top comes off, it’s ready to be enjoyed.

Avoid pineapple with a bottom that smells musky, is gray and covered in whitish mold. The “spines” covering the fruit should not be shriveled, either. If the fruit appears overripe, consider cutting the fruit near the bottom before tossing it out: Some of the sweetest pineapples have a rather ugly, dark red exterior. The flesh should be yellow or golden; if pale and whitish, it’s likely underripe. If the flesh is marred with gray or brown streaks and smells fermented, the fruit has spoiled.

Note: pineapple does not ripen once picked—if plucked prematurely, the fruit will not grow sweeter. However, many pineapples—if picked correctly—will not grow sweeter but will continue to change color and become juicier and tenderer. Do not buy hard, green pineapples: Only select ones that have already started to turn yellow.

Taste of Pineapple
Pineapple has a drippingly sweet, tropical, vibrant flavor with the same acidic bite as citrus. Pineapple is an exceptionally juicy fruit, often causing sticky hands, fingers and mouth to those who enjoy its slices.  Like kiwi, its high acidity can rear its ugly head by causing “pineapple burn,” a sensation of burning tongue and red, chapped lips if one has eaten too much pineapple.

Its firm texture is fibrous and retains its shape when cut. Pineapple flesh is densely packed, though somewhat stringy and can easily getting caught in the teeth like floss.

Nutritional Value of Pineapple
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of edible pineapple includes:

13.1g Carb (4% RDI)
1.4g Fiber (6% RDI)
.1g Fat
.5g Protein (1% RDI)
58IU Vitamin A (1% RDI)
47.8mg Vitamin C (80% RDI)
.1mg Thiamin (5% RDI)
Riboflavin (2% RDI)
.5mg Niacin (2% RDI)
,1mg Vitamin B6 (6% RDI)
18mcg Folate (5% RDI)
.2mg Pantothenic Acid (2% RDI)
13mg Calcium (1% RDI)
.3mg Iron (2% RDI)
12mg Magnesium (3% RDI)
109mg Potassium (3% RDI)
.1mg Zinc (1% RDI)
.1mg Copper (6% RDI)

.9mg Manganese (46% RDI)

Health Benefits of Pineapple
Pineapple has a number of recognized health benefits, both in pharmacology and traditional medicine.

According to a Purdue horticulture article, pineapple has been used traditionally to act as a diuretic and induce labor. The juice is gargled to remedy sore throats and seasickness. Young, unripe (and subsequently toxic) pineapples act as a vermifuge but should not be eaten by pregnant women, as the unripe fruit may induce miscarriage. Unripe pineapple is also believed to treat venereal diseases. In Africa, the roots treat edema, and pineapple rind with rosemary treats hemorrhoids.

The book, “Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine” explains that pineapples alleviates anxiety, calms the heart, and aids digestion. It’s also a thirst-quenching fruit and increases mucus in excess.

Health studies reveal astounding benefits of pineapple as well:
--A study posted in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology cites that pineapple leaves hold potential as a diabetic tool on account of its ability to increase insulin sensitivity.
--According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, pineapple leaves may treat hyperlipidemia.
--A study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine states that bromelain, an enzyme in pineapple, has a therapeutic effect for patients with allergies and asthma due to its ability to inhibit airway inflammation.
--According to a study in The Journal of Surgical Research, bromelain improves firearm wound healing when applied topically.
--As per a study published in Molecular Carcinogenesis, bromelain exhibits anticancer properties by inhibiting cancer cell growth.
--A study from the Institute of Microbial Technology in Chandigarh, India, found that bromelain may be used to combat obesity based on the enzyme’s ability to inhibit reactions responsible for the body’s fat production.

--A study conducted at the University of West London found that bromelain has high potential in the treatment of thrombophlebitis, or, vein inflammation. This is because of its cardioprotective benefits and its ability to decrease aggregation of blood platelets.

How to Cut and Prepare Pineapple:
Cut the spiky crown of the pineapple first, and lop off an inch or so from the bottom. Next, stand the pineapple up straight on the base. Take a knife and saw away the peel by working each stroke from the top of the fruit to the bottom. Some prefer to do only five or so slices around the pineapple; the fewer the strokes, the more fruit tends to get wasted.

Some prefer cutting out the core from the fruit as well as the eyelets remaining on the pineapple’s exterior. Others are less picky and will leave both.

Pineapple corers are available on the market, but expect to lose a lot of the fruit in the cutting process.

Here’s a video showing how to cut pineapple. He also offers the good tip of turning the fruit upside down for 30 minutes in the refrigerator, as this redistributes the fruit’s sugars that typically settle at the base of the pineapple.

If the pineapple needs time to grow juicier (as evident by its predominantly green color), leave at room temperature until it’s yellow and aromatic. To slow its fermentation, place in the refrigerator. Or, cut the fruit and store the slices submerged in a bowl of water, where they’ll keep and retain their nutrients for a little over a week.

Though pineapple can be frozen, the fruit will not retain the same flavors as fresh.

Pineapple Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Pineapples are a delightful addition to main courses, dips, desserts and appetizers:
--Make fresh pineapple juice, smoothies and milkshakes: blend frozen pineapple with coconut, soy, or almond milk. Supplementary ingredients include frozen bananas, orange juice, mango, rum, and/or passion fruit.
--Add chunks of pineapple to stir fries and coconut-based curries.
--Include pineapple in barley, quinoa, and cous cous salads: Better yet, serve in the halved, hollowed out pineapple shell.
--Stir pineapple flesh into dessert-based semolina puddings.
--Make “ice cream” by blending frozen banana and pineapple. The texture of the banana is nearly identical to ice cream.
--Sweeten green smoothies with pineapple
--Attempt the classic pineapple upside down cake by baking cake on a layer of caramelized pineapple rings, and then flipping the pan upside down.
--Make a pineapple coconut cake: the two flavors work beautifully together. Or, make a pineapple topping for use on cakes, cheesecakes, and cupcakes: Lightly cook coarsely blended pineapple pulp and lemon juice. Sift cornstarch atop the mix, and add sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Remove once the mix has thickened, and set aside to cool.
--Blend pineapple with coconut milk and make popsicles
--Fry tofu and pineapple in coconut oil
--Make pineapple salsa: mix corn kernels, diced tomato, capsicum, onion, fresh coriander, limejuice, black beans, and garlic. Serve with chips.
--Add pineapple to rasam recipes.
--Pineapple bakes well, so add mashed pineapple to create cookies and cupcakes.
--Create a pineapple icing by folding in mashed pineapple to any icing batter.
--Add a ring of pineapple to veggie burgers
--Include pineapple on skewers and on the grill

--Dip pineapples in chocolate sauce or add as part of a dessert fondue platter

Pineapple "not so fried rice" from
Flavor Complements:
Avocado, banana, bell pepper, coconut, star fruit, guava, citron, cochin goraka, dragon fruit, feijoa, jackfruit, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, mangosteen, nungu, orange, papaya, passion fruit, pomegranate, pomelo, sour orange, soursop, strawberry, sweet lime, tomato, watermelon

Herbs, spices, and oil: coconut oil and milk, lemon juice, tropical fruit juices, limejuice, barbeque sauce, tamarind, chili, turmeric, cumin

Random Facts:
Each spiky eyelet on a pineapple represents a location where a flower may grow. In fact, a pineapple is a compilation of berries that grow and fuse together. When joined, they create a single fruit. 

Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is responsible for creating that burning sensation in the mouth when pineapple is consumed in large quantities. No substantial evidence exists on how to prevent “pineapple burn,” though some suggest leaving cut fruit out overnight, cutting out the core (which contains the highest quantity of bromelain), or only eating pineapple near the point of fermentation.

A pineapple flowering

Scientific Name:
Ananas comosus

Other Names:
Bahunetraphalam (Sanskrit)
Ananas (Hindi, Bengali, Konkani)
Keehom (Manipuri)
Ananus (Marathi)
Anasipazham (Tamil)
Kaitachchakka (Malayalam)
Annasapandu (Telugu)
Anasahannu (Kannada)


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