Seated majestically at the top of our coat of arms, and emblazoned on our country’s flag, is the pineapple. It is in itself a regal looking fruit, a high crown rising above its jagged orb. For Cayman, it represents our historic link with neighboring Jamaica, and its own history reaches even further.
Originally from South America, and spread to the Caribbean by maritime tribes, Christopher Columbus took the fruit to Europe. This “princess of fruits,” as Sir Walter Raleigh referred to it, became a symbol of hospitality in 17th century America, with its appearance on New England porches being an indication that a seaman had returned home and was ready to accept visitors.
Pineapples grow best in tropical climates, with acidic taste levels affected by variety and sometimes the elevation where they are grown. The low growing plant sprouts fruit on a stalk, and it can take up to two years for each fruit to mature, which does not detract from its popularity. The Food and Agriculture Organization surmises that world production is about 13.7 million tons of fresh fruit.
The fruit is the most important economic plant of the Bromeliaceae family, and differs in shape according to the variety. Smooth Cayenne, Red Spanish, Queen, and Abacaxi are the four main cultivar classes used in trade, although there are many more varieties within these groups.
Per 100g, raw pineapple contains 0.4g protein, 0.2g fat, 10.1g carbohydrate and 41 kcal. It contains 80 percent of daily vitamin C recommendations and 46 percent of daily manganese recommendations.
Amerindians used pineapple to create alcoholic drinks as well as for medicinal purposes related to the fruit’s enzyme bromelain. Even in modern day, this enzyme has possible applications in medical, food and cosmetic fields. While small amounts are obtained by eating fresh, raw pineapple, many take supplements for increased medical effects. It is purported to reduce inflammation, treat ulcerative colitis, prevent pulmonary edema, improve antibiotic absorption and relax the muscles. It is also thought to treat swelling and inflammation after surgery.
How to eat
Pineapple is extremely versatile, and can be consumed raw, as a juice, or as part of a variety of recipes. Due to the bromelain enzyme that it contains, it is also useful in meat tenderizing. The hard exterior rind, and usually the hard core in the middle, are not consumed, only the softer ring between the two.
The following recipe for a refreshing and unique Tropical Pico de Gallo is an alternative to traditional salsa and has been kindly given to us courtesy of Seven Chef de Cuisine Jordan Barnett at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
Tropical Pico de Gallo
Serves a large party
1 lb fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and finely diced
1 lb fresh local mango, peeled and finely diced
1 lb fresh local papaya, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
A small handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 cup pink guava puree
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Fold to fully incorporate. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving or refrigerate overnight for added flavor.