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WHAT IS PINEAPPLE? ANANAS COMOSUS: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF PINEAPPLE: HOW TO MAKE PINA COLADA
PINEAPPLE, ANANAS COMOSUS
The pineapple originated in South America, but spread through the continent and into the West Indies where it was discovered by Columbus and his crew in 1493 on the island of Guadeloupe. One of the crew wrote this description of it: - “…in the shape of a pine cone, twice as big, which fruit is excellent and it can be cut with a knife, like aturnip and it seems to be wholesome.” This description seems one of the best as it does resemble an overgrownpine cone, or a hand grenade.
Columbus took it back to Spain with him and it was apparently much liked by Queen Isabella, however it could not be cultivated with any high degree of success. Magellan found it in Brazil in 1519 and it soon spread to Asia via the European explorers where it had better survival rates.
It got the name ananas from the native Guarani and Tupi tribes that cultivated it. Their name for it, “nana” or “anana” meant “excellent fruit”. The Spanish called it Pina de Indies (Indian pine), so in English it became pineapple. However in Greek, Urdu and French it is called ananas.
People in the Caribbean valued the fruit highly and would put it outside their houses to welcome guests and this tradition spread to Europe with sea captains. The pineapple became a fashionable motif and can be found in carvings and on gateposts in Europe.
In Malaysia the green core of the pineapple is considered an abortifacient, and this core, along with the stem of the pineapple plant have properties that are beneficial to us. An extract from the stem which contains bromelian has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, and can lower the risk of thrombosis. It also exhibits anti-cancer qualities. The pineapple is the only edible fruit of the bromeliad plant family, and is actually made up of about 200 fruitlets. The outside peel and central core can be given to cattle so there is not much wastage, although the plant only produces two fruits in its lifetime and the second fruit is smaller than the first. It also takes two years to produce fruit and only flowers for one day. This makes pineapples expensive to produce and on 1st October 2010 The Guardian (a leading British daily newspaper) reported that “Workers in developing nations endure injury, chemicals, low wages and union repression so British consumers can pay less” for their pineapples. This is particularly true in Costa Rica, and the newspaper went on to say that consumers who welcomed recent price cuts in the cost of pineapples on supermarket shelves, did not want those cuts to be because of bad working conditions for those who pick and cultivate pineapples.
One-third of the world’s pineapples come from Hawaii, where Captain James Cook introduced them in 1770. They are now America’s favourite fruit after bananas, although this is probably in the form of fruit juice, and canned pineapples rather than solely the fresh fruit.
Pineapples contain Vitamin C theB-complex vitamins, Vitamins A, E and K as well as essential amino acids, and minerals, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. They are especially high in potassium and vitamin C. They provide the body with powerful antioxidant activity and the proteolitic enzymes in the fruit aid digestion.
They are particularly good in fruit salads withkiwi fruit, strawberries, bananas, cherries, melons, andlychees. They are useful with chicken too and you can make a side salad to go with this by grating a fennel bulb, and adding chopped fresh pineapple andcashew nuts. Below is a recipe for pina colada which has been adopted as Puerto Rica’s national drink.