Tuesday, June 27, 2023
I was today years old when I learned that pineapples don’t grow in trees.
Hold. The. Phone.
How is this a thing I did not know? Not only do they not grow in trees, but they grow on the actual ground, in the middle of a spiky-leaved plant, which only produces one pineapple at a time.
For some reason I have always thought they grew in trees, maybe because the top of palm trees look pineapple-ish, or because tropical cousin fruit like mangos and papayas grow in trees.
Not since I learned that asparagus grow in individual stalks from the ground have I been so astonished.
How did this come up, you ask? Turns out today is International Pineapple Day. Not National Pineapple Day, because apparently that is a whole different thing, as is pineapple appreciation day and pineapple month. But who’s splitting hairs? Pineapple is delicious any day.
Once I heard it was pineapple day, I looked it up.
Open hole, insert rabbit.
Did you know that in Europe pineapples were once so expensive, for all the reasons you can imagine – exotic, perishable, scarce – that they were a distinct sign of wealth and extravagance?
They were so prized for the status they conveyed that an entire industry sprung up around renting pineapples. People would literally rent a pineapple so they could carry it around at parties to look very posh.
Oh, these pineapples were not eaten or anything as gauche as that. They were an accessory. A centerpiece.
Pineapples, the actual fruit of which could go for $8,000 in current dollars, showed up in art and culture everywhere. On napkins. On wallpaper. In the shapes of dishes. On top of teapots. As jelly molds. You ever see one of those weird antique bedposts with a pineapple carved at the top? Now you know why.
The word pineapple even made it into colloquial use for a while. Referring to someone or something as a pineapple was sort of like saying “just peachy” or “you’re a real peach” today. Anything spectacular was said to be “a pineapple of the finest flavor.”
This discovery today is most certainly a pineapple of the finest flavor!
I love pineapples. Now I love them even more. I used to eat them from a can until I got snooty and now I mainly only eat them fresh. I’ve been going through a pineapple phase lately and buy one each week. The great thing about pineapples is that they are pretty spectacular to look at even before you get to the eating part.
Think about it. Pineapples grow like that. Who invents this stuff??
There is, in fact, a fresh pineapple on my counter right now. I buy one, then I leave it on the counter for a few days to look pretty, then I cut it up one slice at a time and eat it before the fruit flies do.
This time of year is open house for fruit flies. They literally live in my refrigerator. As long as they don’t get in my way when I’m eating their pineapple, I don’t care.
Pineapple juice is about the only fruit juice I will drink. Pineapple upside down cake is not something you usually find on a menu but it begs the question: why not?
Other place pineapple is most excellent? In cocktails.
The only place pineapple doesn’t belong is on pizza. Come on! Fruit! Pizza! So wrong.
Pineapples, by the way, are neither pine nor apple. They are, in fact, a fruit that is made of a cluster of berries that have fused together.
Nor are they called pineapples by most of the world. They are called ananas. French? L’ananas. Italian? L’ananas. German? Die Ananas.
Well, considering Columbus “discovered” it when he hit South America, he called it a piña de Indes because apparently it looked like a pinecone. So in Spanish, it is still called la piña.
Pineapple is what English people of the day called actual pine cones.
And to confuse your linguistic brain even more, the word apple was used as a sort of generic stand-in for basically any fruit or nut.
Think potatoes as pomme de terre – apple of the earth. Think pomegranate – apple of many seeds.
In old English, appel of paradis was a banana and eorþæppla, or “earth apple,” meant cucumber.
So pineapples were really “apples of the pine tree” until Columbus showed up and basically rewrote the dictionary.
Still delicious though. In honor of pineapple day I borrowed some pineapple from the fruit flies and made myself a Singapore Sling. Threw a bunch of pineapple into my Ninja, and juice acquired, ate the rest of the pulp with a spoon.
I tried to garnish the glass with a wedge of pineapple but it kept falling on the floor so I kept having to rinse it off an eat it. I think I ate about a half the pineapple, witnessed by the fact that my tongue is numb.
Pineapple will eat you, you know. The acid is used as a meat tenderizer because it will break down proteins in meat. Your tongue? Meat.
As this pineapple of a day comes to a close, I leave you with the 21st century’s version of a pineapple moment. In 18th century England, a pineapple meant you were super rich. Now it’s an emoji, and thanks to this video, a meme. And I can’t stop singing it, least of all after a Singapore Sling.
Photo: today’s adventures in pineapple.