Among tropical fruits, pineapples take the third place in terms of cultivation. In the countries of the tropical belt, growing pineapples is becoming one of the most important articles of agriculture. Therefore, literally all over the world, you can find plantations where pineapples grow, in nature you can hardly see the sweet fruits familiar from the stores.
The fact is that all pineapples intended for human consumption belong to the subspecies Ananas comosus var.comosus, today consisting of several dozen varieties and cultivated hybrids. In the wild, pineapple plants of this subspecies are not found. In addition to the comosus species, the species Ananas Comosus is presented in four more variations: Ananassoides, Erectifolius, Parguazensis and Bracteatus. All representatives of the species are commoners and belong to the bromeliad family of the inhabitants of tropical regions of South America.
Even in the pre-Columbian era, locals grew and used pineapples. Moreover, not only edible fruits were used, but also hard leaves and stalks of pineapple plants, from which they obtained strong fiber for the production of clothing, ropes, mats and fishing nets.
What does this interesting plant look like and what does the well-known tropical fruit Pineapple represent?
Botanical description of a pineapple plant
When you see a pineapple plant in nature or on a plantation, you might think that all the moisture it extracts from the roots gives to a juicy fruit. A perennial plant, whose habitual habitat is warm, but rather dry plains, looks extremely tough and prickly. The height of the pineapple, depending on the variety and growing conditions, can reach 0.6–1.5 meters. Stem short, densely covered with stiff, elongated foliage.
The rosette of an adult plant is formed from 30 or more fleshy, concave-shaped, pointed leaves with a length of 20 to 100 cm. Interestingly, on the stem that grows thicker as the stem grows, it spirals. In some varieties and subspecies of pineapple on the edge of the leaves can be seen sharp curved spines.
There are subspecies with exactly colored leaves and variegated varieties. But all members of the genus foliage is covered with a thick wax coating that makes it almost gray or gray.
How does pineapple bloom?
Few people accustomed to feasting on a tropical fruit, imagine how pineapple blooms. Nevertheless, it is interesting not only how the flower itself looks, but also how pineapple plants are prepared for flowering on industrial plantations
Usually bloom the culture is ready in 12-20 months after planting. Since the formation of the peduncle in this species can be significantly delayed, some tricks are used to obtain a harmonious harvest on the plantations where pineapples grow. Plants or fumigate several times with smoke, or, what happens much more often, are treated with acetylene. Such a measure stimulates the plants to form flower buds, and after a couple of months you can notice how the upper part of the stem is extended, and the inflorescence appears on it.
The length of a pineapple inflorescence is from 7 to 15 centimeters. In this case, it includes from 100 to 200 small flowers arranged in a spiral, sitting tightly on the stem and surrounded by a bract.
The color of the rims can be, depending on the variety, different shades of crimson, lilac or purple.
As the seed formation that occurs during cross-pollination, according to the producers of tropical fruits, pineapple and its qualities are negatively reflected, the flowering plantations in every way protect. For this, the inflorescences are covered with caps, and in Hawaii, where hummingbirds are the pollinator of the crop, planting has to be strictly protected from these tiny birds.
On the stem, the flowers, and then the individual fruits on the pineapple plants are arranged in accordance with the sequence of Fibonacci numbers, forming two interrelated spirals.
As soon as the ovaries are formed, and their growth begins, the individual berries merge so that as a result, a fruit with a juicy single core and a dense prickly skin appears on the shelves.
Due to the fact that there are practically no seeds in the fruits of cultivated varieties, reproduction is carried out exclusively by the vegetative method. After harvesting, the old pineapple plants are removed, and in their place they plant new ones, obtained from lateral processes, leaves that are abundantly formed in the axils and at the very root. As a result, the varietal affiliation of plants is maintained and their cultivation is accelerated.
Obviously, modern cultivation technology was not known either in the pre-Columbian era, or later, when the first Europeans appeared in the South American region. What is the origin of pineapple? When, by whom and where was the pineapple first discovered?
The History of Discovery and the Origin of the Pineapple
According to scientists' current ideas, the region stretching from southern Brazil to Paraguay can be considered the birthplace of pineapple.
The plants closest to the present-day Ananas comosus species were found in the valley of the Parana River at the beginning of the last century.
Obviously, from these regions, the local tribes, who learned to eat juicy stems, spread pineapples throughout most of the South American continent right up to the Caribbean and Central America. It is known that pineapple plants were cultivated by the Aztec and Mayan tribes. The discovery of tropical pineapple fruit by Europeans took place in 1493, when Columbus noticed interesting plants on the island of Guadeloupe. With a light hand navigator pineapple was named "Pina de Indes".
If the Spaniards found pineapples in Hawaii, then the Portuguese found plants that hit them no less in Brazil. A few decades later, the first plantings of pineapples appeared in the Indian and African colonies. The tropical fruit, which is rapidly gaining popularity, has retained the name derived from native South Americans, because “nanas” in Tupi language means “magnificent fruit”.The prefix comosus, that is, crested, appeared in 1555.
Growing Pineapples: Tropical Fruits in Europe
As exotic tropical fruits, pineapples quickly became popular in Europe. Here only their delivery from overseas colonies to the states of Europe was not only expensive, but also extremely long. During the voyage, most of the fruit was hopelessly spoiled. Therefore, already in 1658, the first European fruit was grown, and in 1723 a huge greenhouse was built in English in Chelsea, designed exclusively for this tropical culture.
Pineapples became so popular and fashionable that their images appeared on the portraits of royal persons, and the rulers wanted their own strange "cones" to be grown in their possessions. For example, a portrait with a pineapple of King Henry II is known, in 1733 a pineapple from his own greenhouse in Versailles appeared on the table of Louis XV.And Catherine II, before her death, received fruit from her Petersburg farms.
But, despite the fact that pineapples did not grow in nature, but already in Europe, they did not become cheaper and more accessible. To get a precious fruit it took to wait at least two years, and the maintenance of greenhouses and the cultivation of a capricious crop was expensive. Therefore, pineapples were considered a symbol of luxury, and at dinner parties they were often not eaten, but used as decoration and evidence of wealth. The same fruit was used to decorate the table many times, until it rotted.
Stylized images of pineapple, a tropical fruit for the rich, are increasingly used to decorate interiors and clothing. And in the second half of the 18th century, in the possession of the fourth Earl of Dunmore, John Murray, engaged in the cultivation of pineapples for the English nobility, a greenhouse appeared, the attraction of which was a huge dome in the form of a fancy stone pineapple of 14 meters height.
But neither the construction of greenhouses nor the development of industry could make the cultivation of tropical fruits in Europe massive. To do this where pineapples grow in nature turned out to be faster and more profitable.
At the turn of the 20th century, large industrial enterprises of this kind appeared in Hawaii, then plantations were broken up in many countries of South America, Africa and the Asian region. Entrepreneurial producers have not only established the delivery of fruit on ships, but also mastered the production of canned fruit. From luxury, pineapple has become an affordable and affordable product.
Over the past since the opening of the fruit of the century, not only its value has changed, but also its appearance. If wild pineapples in nature form aggregates weighing 200 to 700 grams, then cultivars delight consumers with pineapples up to 2-3 kg in weight. At the same time, the pulp in the fruit has become incomparably sweeter.