Pineapples are a crop endemic to South America that first came into contact with western European civilizations by way of the early maritime explorers. Subsequently, pineapples entered western European iconography as a symbol of exoticism and hospitality. During the 16th and 17th centuries, these exotic tropical fruits were a luxury in Europe, where they could only be imported from across the Atlantic or grown in glass botanical houses that were kept warm year-round. It was not long before global markets started demanding pineapples in large quantities, which lead countries like Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France to establish large-scale plantations throughout their colonies in the Americas. One of the key appeals of pineapples to international markets, other than their taste, is the fact that they are grown all year long, which facilitates availability and stabilizes pricing. Central American countries are able to harvest and export pineapples year-round. However, it is important to mention that exceptional weather phenomena and contemporary climate variations can adversely affect the agricultural supply chain, through disasters such as storms and flooding.
In terms of international transportation and shipment, fresh pineapple can be stored at temperatures between 8-10°C for up to five weeks, which facilitates long distance export. Furthermore, fresh pineapple is one of the few fruits that can be exported towards certain high value markets, such as Japan, without the necessity of a quarantine period because it is not a host for fruit flies. In terms of nutritional intake, an average serving of two slices of pineapple contains 25% of the daily-recommended amount of vitamin C required by an adult. Similarly, two slices of pineapple provide approximately 60 calories, 16 grams carbohydrates, and 13 grams of sugar.
Origins and Exotic Varieties of the Pineapple
Minor pineapple varieties, other than the MD2 and Smooth Cayenne market giants, include the Abacaxi strand. The Abacaxi pineapple is a spiny and disease-resistant variety that produces tall, oblong shaped fruit. They are also known for their by clear white flesh, which is tender, juicy and rich. Though considered one of the most tasteful pineapples, the Abacaxi varieties ship poorly due to their fragility, which severely limits their international market potential. Another pineapple variety is the Sugarloaf, which also has a tender and rich flesh within a conical or round shape. The Sugarloaf pineapple is derived from Abacaxi variety and, in turn, several pineapple strains have been developed from the Sugarloaf, such as the Black Jamaica and the Montufar pineapples.
Yet another strand of pineapples is that known as Queen or Common Rough, grown in countries such as South Africa. This variety is a compact and dwarf pineapple that is more tolerant to the cold and to disease than most other varieties. Likewise, the Queen pineapple produces dark yellow and fragrant fruits with a small core that are usually eaten fresh, as opposed to canned. Lastly, there is the Red Spanish pineapple variety, which is mainly grown throughout the Caribbean, including in Mexico and Venezuela. The Red Spanish variety are very aromatic pineapples with a light yellow color and a high fiber content.