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A pineapple is a tropical fruit with a sweet, slightly acidic flavor and very juicy flesh. Pineapples are native to Central American and the Caribbean, where they continue to be widely eaten and cultivated, and they are also grown throughout the tropics of the world, especially in the American states of Florida and Hawaii. Although pineapples may be native to the Americas, they have also been adopted into the cuisine of several other regions of the world, especially Asia.
Pineapples look extremely bizarre while growing on the plant, and it is perhaps not that astounding to learn that European explorers were fascinated by the pineapple when they were first introduced to it. Pineapples grow on spiny bushes which cling low to the ground, eventually producing clusters of flowers which press up against each other, melding into what appears to be a single fruit. The outside of the fruit is covered in a thick fleshy layer of material which may also be covered in small spines, depending on the cultivar, and at the terminus of the fruit, it is possible to see a small cluster of leaves which grow straight upwards.
The Europeans named the pineapple after the pine cone, since these fruits do look rather like pine cones, and it proved to be a big hit when it was introduced to European courts. Like other tropical fruits, the pineapple was at first limited to the tables of royalty, and it was often the subject of paintings, etchings, and other works of art, due to its distinctive appearance. Over time, widespread cultivation of the pineapple has made it much more widely accessible.
Pineapples are unable to continue ripening once they have been picked, so they must be picked at peak ripeness. This can make pineapples costly for people outside of the tropics, because they must be carefully handled and airlifted to market. A good pineapple will have a rich, even color with no signs of greening, and it should give a little to the touch. If the leaves can be pulled out easily or they are spotted, the pineapple is too ripe, and it should be discarded.
Many people enjoy eating pineapple straight, or blending it with fruit in fruit salads. This fruit is rich in vitamin C, making it a great addition to the diet, and it also has a dietary enzyme which can be used to tenderize meats, which explains why pineapple is often roasted, grilled, or baked with meats. This same enzyme can cause irritation to the mucus membranes in some people, so if you have ever eaten pineapple and noticed that your mouth is tingling or painful afterwards, now you know why.
In addition to being available fresh in some markets, pineapple is usually readily available in jars and tins, and sometimes dried, as well. Pineapple juice is also commonly on offer at many markets. People who live in warm climates or who have access to a greenhouse can try their hands at growing pineapple; the plants can be cultivated from the crowns of mature fruits.