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Pineapples are among the most unique fruits, with their spikey exterior, many eyes and sweet, delicious insides. While the symbolism and meaning of the fruit has changed over time, its popularity hasn’t. It remains one of the most consumed fruits. Here’s a look at the story behind the pineapple.
Origins and History of the Pineapple
A pineapple is a tropical fruit with a juicy pulp on the inside, and a tough, spikey skin on the outside. The fruit was given its name by the Spanish, who felt like it resembled a pinecone. Interestingly, in almost every other major language, the pineapple is called ananas.
Pineapples were originally cultivated in Brazil and Paraguay. From these regions, the fruit spread to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean Islands. The fruit was cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs, who used it for consumption and spiritual rituals.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus came across the fruit on his way to the Guadeloupe islands. Intrigued, he took back several pineapples to Europe, to present at the court of King Ferdinand. However, only one pineapple survived the journey. It was an immediate hit. From Europe, the pineapple journeyed into Hawaii, and was cultivated on a large scale by James Dole, a pioneer of commercial cultivation and production.
From Hawaii, the pineapple was canned and transported across the world by the means of ocean streamers. Hawaii exported tinned pineapple into Europe, because the fruit could not be cultivated in cold regions. Soon, however, Europeans found a way to emulate tropical climatic conditions and create a suitable environment to harvest pineapples.
Although the pineapple was a luxury fruit initially, with the onslaught of technology and industrialization, it began to be cultivated all over the world. Soon it lost its significance as an elite fruit and became accessible to everyone.
Symbolic Meanings of Pineapples
The pineapple has predominantly been used as a symbol of hospitality. However, there are several other symbolic meanings associated with the fruit.
Symbol of status: In early European society, pineapples were a symbol of status. Pineapples could not be grown on European soil, and therefore, only the affluent could afford to import them. Pineapples were used as decorative elements in dinner parties, and reflected the wealth of the host.
Symbol of hospitality: Pineapples were hung on doorways as a symbol of friendship and warmth. They were a sign welcoming guests for a friendly chat. Sailors who returned safely from their oceanic voyages placed a pineapple in front of their homes to invite friends and neighbours.
Symbol of Hawaii: Although pineapples did not originate in Hawaii, they are thought to be a Hawaiian fruit. This is due to the fact that pineapples were cultivated in large numbers in Hawaii, and became an integral part of Hawaiian culture, lifestyle, and cuisine.
Symbol of feminism: The famous fashion designer Stella McCartney used the pineapple as a feminist icon. She designed clothes with the pineapple, as a symbol of feminism and female empowerment.
Cultural Significance of the Pineapple
The pineapple is an integral part of many cultures and belief systems. In most cultures’ pineapples have a positive connotation.
- Native Americans
The Native Americans used the pineapple in a variety of ways. They were used to prepare alcohol or wine known as Chicha and Guarapo. The bromelain enzyme of the pineapple was believed to have healing powers, and the fruit was used to treat stomach problems. Pineapples were also offered to Vitzliputzli, the god of war, in some Native American tribes.
For the Chinese, the pineapple is a symbol of good luck, fortune and wealth. In some Chinese beliefs, pineapple spikes are seen as eyes which see ahead, and bring good luck to the keeper.
In European Christian art of the 1500’s, the fruit was a symbol of prosperity, wealth, and eternal life. In the 17th century, Christopher Wren, the English architect, used pineapples as decorative elements on churches.
Interesting Facts About Pineapples
- Domestically grown pineapples are pollinated solely by Hummingbirds.
- The pineapple fruit is produced when 100-200 flowers fuse together.
- Some people eat pineapples with burgers and pizzas.
- The heaviest pineapple was grown by E. Kamuk and weighed 8.06 Kgs.
- Catherine the Great was fond of pineapples and especially of ones that were grown in her gardens.
- The pineapple can flower much faster with the use of smoke.
- There are more than a hundred varieties of pineapples.
- Pineapples are actually a bunch of berries that have been merged together.
- The famous Pina Colada cocktail is predominantly made out of pineapples.
- Pineapples do not contain any fat or protein.
- Brazil and the Philippines are the highest consumers of the tropical fruit.
The delicious pineapple has been used across the globe for various purposes, from religious rituals to decorations. It remains a symbol of the tropics and of hospitality and welcome.