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Friday, March 12, 2010

An unexpected Bromeliad

This is a bromeliad Ananas nanus (nanus means small or dwarf) . Yes, that is a pineapple, quite edible! It's been growing in the house in a south facing room with lots of windows. It would have been fine outside in our SoCal climate like most bromeliads. It's so appealing it got to star in the dining room
It got ripe, then it got harvested.
And that means... cannibalism! (We've gotten to be such friends.)  All is not lost. The parent plant is flourishing, and perhaps the cut-off top will also survive and make another plant. Spes alit agricolam

The sturdy and adaptable Ananas family was toted to Europe from its native South America by the the Spanish ( C. Columbus)  and Portuguese explorers( F. Magellan). The pineapple  was an instant hit. Grown as a crop in the New World, then imported, the pineapple became a symbol of wealth and hospitality --- to grow it, you had a have a hothouse.

Serving pineapple was the equivalent of draping yourself in bling. Successful hostesses did both. If you were an aspiring but financially strapped hostess--you could rent a pineapple for the evening to act as a centerpiece. ( And all the time you thought we were the sub-prime  innovators.)

The pineapples in the grocery store are Ananas comosus. They contain, besides  good taste enzymes that act as meat tenderizers.

 Capt. Cook took the fruit to Hawaii in 1770.  Pineapple was a favorite fruit of George Washington   who ate it in Bermuda and found it absolutely topping.( Had to have been before 1776, right?) By then pineapples were being grown in Florida, Bermuda and Scotland.

The  whole 18th century was mad about pineapples.
.... Sculpted pineapples appeared as gateposts, weather vanes, and door lintels. ...stencilled on walls, woven into tablecloths, napkins, carpets and curtains, and painted onto the backs of chairs and tops of chests. ... the use of the pineapple motif in architecture reached its climax in the colossal stone 'Pineapple' structure at Dunmore Park, near Airth in Stirlingshire, Scotland." 

In the 19th c the pineapple was not  yet exhausted  as a symbol of hospitality. It  became a motif in  the Arts and Crafts movement and appears on a set of  Eastlake dining room chairs. Today the pineapple appears on the Internet in plaques

".... Show off your sense of warmth and hospitality with this symbol of welcoming"                Bling anyone?
 Here is King Charles the Second receiving a pineapple
He appears  low in " warmth and hospitality" but---- he hasn't yet eaten his present.

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