Dec 1, 2015

Excellent Fruit

Is there any fruit less appealing in appearance than the pineapple? Knife-like blades on top, spine-tipped scales everywhere else - this armored football of a fruit does little to incite appetite. Until, that is, you happen upon a fully ripe pine and your senses flood with the fragrance of yellow sunshine and sweet flower. "Eat me, slice me, blend me into a rum-enhanced drink", it says. And you should.

The Tupi of South America receive first name credit, coming up with nanas "excellent fruit" and comosus "tufted" with later Europeans (circa 1664) using pineapple interchangeably between evergreen cones and these decidedly more tropical specimens. Seafaring captains would load up on the flower/fruit when returning from the tropics. Once home, the sailor would place a pineapple on the gate post, signalling his return and thus was born the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality. Or so the story goes. There are more than a few refutable myths floating around. For instance: placing a pine upside down in the 'frig before cutting will make the fruit sweeter and juicier (not a fact). Or, eating the fruit before coitus will improve certain, uhhh... oral aspects of the act (perhaps a fact - may require testing).  Or, hummingbirds are banned from Hawaii because of the pineapple-growing industry (yep, that one is true).

With it's interesting botany, unusual propagation and role in Hawaii's history, it's rather sad to consider pineapple in Hawaii today. This state used to produce one third of the world's supply. Now, with just a single grower on Maui and no canneries or production facilities, Hawaii doesn't even register on the world production list. When we first arrived at the House of Good Living eight years ago we could smell pineapple in the air on warm spring evenings as we lived just across the road from one of Maui Land & Pine's plantations. At that time, ML&P was the nation's largest producer of pineapple. But, because using land for resorts is more profitable than growing things, the fruit that used be a state symbol is no longer grown on a commercial scale. Today, with ML&P completely out of the "P", we rely on a roadside stand from a family farm to provide us our daily pine. I'm happy to support a small local endeavor.  But be aware, those "Hawaiian-style" pineapples you're picking up at the market - they're coming to you courtesy of the low land and labor costs in Costa Rica. The only truly Hawaiian pines you'll find on the mainland are labeled "Maui Gold" and are made possible by the island's one remaining small grower who's committed to saving the tradition of pine in the islands.

This holiday season I recommend you break out the biggest knife in the block, brave the fearsome exterior and imagine yourself in the islands with a slice of fresh Maui-grown pineapple. Everything will seem more golden and sweet, if you do.