Ananas comosus: Pineapple

Family: Bromeliaceae
Common name: Pineapple

It might be surprising for home gardeners to know that this exotic, sweet, delicious fruit can be easily grown in your backyards or even in terrace gardens and balconies. They can be grown easily from the crown of a store-bought pineapple, though they do take a while to grow, flower and produce fruits.

Pineapple plants have a stiff rosette of long, prickly leaves, though there are some variants without thorns on the leaves. These plants usually grow to a height of about 1 meter with long, narrow, dull-green leaves that are 40-100 cm long with sharp spines along both the edges. The stem is short and thick, covered all over with the leaf bases.

Once the pineapple plant is about 2 years old, it flowers with deep pinkish-red flowers. Each bunch has over 200 flowers, the ovaries of which merge together to form a multiple fruit, that is yellow or orange in color.

The flowers are sometimes held aloft on tall spikes and sometimes held very close to the middle of the rosette of leaves. These plants are native to South America, from where they were introduced to Europe and other countries.

Pineapples are now a favored fruit all over the world, used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes, juices, cocktails and more. The most common pineapple dishes are pineapple upside down cake, pina colada, danishes, jams, jellies, preserves, ice creams, sorbets, pizza, fried rice and even meat dishes.

They can be refrigerated raw for a few days, or canned and stored for up to 2 years. There are many variants like Red Spanish, Hilo, Smooth Cayenne, Natal queen and Kona Sugarloaf that has distinct flavors, sizes and plant characteristics.

An enzyme called Bromelain present in almost all parts of the pineapple can cause itching on the tongue, lips and edges of the mouth after eating. Once eaten the stomach acids to negate the effects of this enzyme.

Cooking also removes the irritation that can be caused while eating raw pineapple. But Bromelain makes pineapple a good marinade for meats to make them tender.

Pineapple plants are quite sturdy, and can grow with very little water and nutrition. Left in the wild, these plants grow, produce fruits, die and produce more plants gradually spreading over an area.

In cultivation, the plants die once they produce the fruits. New crops are produced from the crowns of ripe fruits, or from small offsets that grow on the parent plant after fruiting.

These non-fussy plants can very easily be grown in pots, containers or in terrace gardens with very little care and maintenance. All you need is the patience to wait till they grow big enough to produce fruits.

Propagation is through crowns of ripe pineapples, or through pups produced from the parent plant