Pineapple (Ananas comosus)

Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is the most commercially grown and economically important plant in the family Bromeliaceae, native to southern Brazil and Paraguay. Ananas was derived from the Tupi (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) word 'nanas' which means 'excellent fruit', and 'comosus' meaning 'tufted'. Pineapple is widely known as pina in Spanish-speaking people, abacaxi in Portuguese tongue, Anaasa in Telegu, annachi pazham in Tamil, anarosh in Bengali, nanas or nenas in southern Asia and the East Indes, and nanasi in Swahili. The name pineapple was given due to the fruit's resemblance to a pine cone. Besides being produced for consumption, pineapple can be grown as an ornamental or houseplant. Thailand, the Philippines, and Brazil are the world's leading pineapple producers.

The pineapple is a herbaceous perennial plant growing 0.75-1.5 m tall. It produces a short, stout stem and a rosette of tough, waxy, straplike spiny leaves, 30-100 cm long. The leaves may be all green or striped with red, yellow or white down the middle or near the margin. At blooming time, the stem elongates and enlarges near the apex and bears a head of small flowers, each accompanied by a single red, yellowish or green bracts. There are up to 200 flowers that are joined together to form a pineapple. Depending on variety, the flower color may range from light purple, lavender to red. The stems continues to grow and forms a compact tuff of stiff, short leaves called the crown or top. Occasionally a plant may bear 2-3 heads, or as many as 12 or more fused together, instead of the normal one.

Pineapple has a unique feature. The core of the pineapple is continuous with the stem supporting the fruit and also the crown. Offshoots, called slips, emerge from the stem around the base of the fruit, and shoots grow in the axils of the leaves. Suckers or aerial roots are shoots arising from the base of the plant at ground level. Suckers that proceed later from the stolons beneath the soil are called basal suckers or ratoons. The extra heads or suckers can be removed for propagation or left to produce additional fruits on the original plant. Suckers appear around the base are usually cultivated and replant. In the Philippines, the leaves yield a strong, silky white fiber called pina, that can be used in a variety of ways such as a wall paper and a component of furnishing.

As the individual fruits develop from the flowers, they are joined together forming a cone-shaped, compound , juicy, fleshy fruit, 30 cm or more long. Pineapple is actually a multiple fruit consisting of coalesced berries. The tough, waxy rind is made up of hexagonal units, may be dark green, yellow, orange-yellow or reddish when the fruit is ripe. It is arranged into two interlocking helices, eight in one direction and thirteen in the other, with each being a Fibonacci number. Fibonacci number appears in biological settings, such as branching in trees, arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit spouts of a pineapple, the flowering of artichoke, an uncurling fern and the arrangement of a pine cone. The flesh of pineapple ranges from yellow to nearly white. If the flowers are pollinated, small, hard seeds may be present, but generally only traces of undeveloped seeds are found inside the flesh.

Pineapple is juicy, and has a sweet-sour taste, and is high in manganese and vitamin C. It also contains bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme, which breaks down protein. Pineapple juice can be used as a marinate and as a meat tenderizer. Pineapple can be eaten fresh, canned, frozen, candied, juiced or add to cooking. It is also frequently used in desserts, salads, jams, yogurt, ice creams, candies, fruit cocktail or as a complement to meat dishes.

Pineapple grows well in well-drained, sandy loam that is high with organic matter, and with a friable depth of at least 60 cm, and pH ranges from 4.5-6.5. Propagation is by crowns or tops, slips, suckers or ratoons. First harvest occurs in 12-22 months after planting. Production is continuous in the tropics, and harvesting is usually done in summer months in subtropics.

The pineapple fruit with crown intact is often used as a decoration and there are variegated forms of the plants that are universally grown for their showiness indoors and out.

Pineapple (Ananas comosus)Pineapple (Ananas comosus)
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authorshipForest & Kim Starr
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