Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ludicus Pineapple

A "lucidus" pineapple plant (Ananas comosus var. lucidus [?]). The plant was in fruit when purchased -- probably by chemical forcing, given the small size of the plant. Complete ripening took about six months from time of purchase.

Close-up of the lucidus fruit after harvest. Similar lucidus pineapple plants are currently being sold at Home Depot stores in California.

Cross-section of the lucidus fruit with crown removed. The fruit (about the size of a hen's egg) may have been slightly overripe. It was fairly sweet with a pronounced acidity, perhaps the result of winter-time ripening.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Book Review: "The Pineapple: King of Fruits"

Fran Beauman
The Pineapple: King of Fruits
December 2005
Chatto & Windus
315 pages
52 illustrations
ISBN: 0-701-17699-7

Fran Beauman presents a history of the consumption and cultivation of pineapples, principally in Britain and the United States, from the very late fifteen century to the present day. The book draws extensively from period sources. It is likely that no other author has presented as much historical information about pineapples in a single volume.

The heart of Beauman's book is her account of British pineapple cultivation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her pineapple story is one of advancing technology. Progress in heating, horticulture, glass making and other areas led to the construction of remarkably productive private pineapple greenhouses -- "pineapple stoves" or "pineries" -- with large complexes able to produce hundreds of pineapples per year. Eventually, other technological advances, namely steamships and mechanical refrigeration, made West Indian pineapples cheaply available to Europe and spelled the end of British domestic pineapple production.

Beauman also traces social meanings attached to the pineapple during its early history in Europe and the United States: from royalty to trade to the Church to sex. Most of all, because of the great expense involved in its production, the pineapple was a symbol of wealth and luxury. As Beauman explains, an early hothouse pineapple cost as much as a new carriage. Beauman criticizes the commonly held idea of the pineapple as a old symbol of hospitality. Rather than a sign of welcome, she argues that the fruit stood more as a self-conscious display of prosperity.

For her book to be of manageable size, some omissions are inevitable and Beauman's history of the pineapple is necessarily incomplete. In particular, her treatment of the pineapple in the twentieth century is much more cursory than that of earlier periods. (One exception is Beauman's tantalizing account of shadowy origins of the Gold pineapple, a Smooth Cayenne hybrid developed at the Pineapple Research Institute variously known as 73-114, MD-2 and CO-2.) She also provides relatively little discussion of the pineapple in Asia (Taiwan, for example) or Africa -- major pineapple-producing regions today. Her treatment of South America is limited to the origins of the pineapple (believed to have been domesticated by the Tupi-Guarani people) and Europeans' first introduction to it (Christopher Columbus and his crew).

The one truly heartbreaking omission in The Pineapple is the lack of a separate description of pineapple varieties, particularly those developed in the old British pineries. Beauman, based on her extensive review of primary sources from the period, gives a glimpse of controversies and rivalries among pineapple gardeners and their patrons regarding cultivation methods. A similarly detailed treatment of the different varieties bred and grown during this special period would have been a wonderful addition to Beauman's work.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Pineapples in Other Blogs, a blog about food and Hawaii, has several pineapple-related posts in its produce and plants section. One post offers advice on selecting and cutting a pineapple. Another includes beautiful pineapple photos from the Dole Pineapple Demostration Garden. (One of these photos is of a "Saigon Red" variety, which may or may not be the same Saigon Red variety described in a previous Pineapple Blog post.)

Fresh Approach Cooking, a blog about cooking in L.A., also has a post about pineapple preparation. It features photos and a description of "Royal African Sugarloaf" pineapples imported from Ghana. They appear to be the Perola variety.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

New Pineapple Variety in 2006

"Honey Gold" Announced in 2003

In October 2003, Del Monte Fresh Produce announced plans to launch a new "Honey Gold" pineapple variety (also known as "MA2") in 2006. (This new Honey Gold should not to be confused with the Gold variety, mentioned in a previous post.)

Del Monte Fresh Produce's October 2003 press release describes the new Honey Gold:

The Del Monte Honey Gold(TM) pineapple, which was developed after five years of extensive research and product testing, has a smooth, distinctive bright yellow exterior; a refreshing, slightly sweet flavor; and an intense aroma. It also offers consumers a particularly long shelf life at room temperature.

2006 Release Still "Eagerly Await[ed]"

Last week, the Pineapple Blog contacted Del Monte Fresh Produce for more information about the Honey Gold. In an e-mail response, Eva Torres, executive assistant at Del Monte Fresh Produce, stated: "We eagerly await the launch of Del Monte Honey GoldTM pineapple at the end of 2006." Ms. Torres later stated that Del Monte Fresh Produce has no further information about the Honey Gold at this time.

Patent Application: More Juicy Details

While Del Monte Fresh Produce currently has little to say about its new pineapple, the U.S. patent application for the Honey Gold provides a great deal of information about this variety.

According to the application, they Honey Gold was developed using material from a Taiwan pineapple variety, the fragrant Perfume pineapple (Tainung No.11) described in a previous post. The fruit is small, only 0.837 kg on average. Its average Brix is 16.18. Its citric acid and Vitamin C levels are both higher than that of Tainung No.11. Its leaves are less spiny than those of those of Tainung No.11.

Below is a drawing of the Honey Gold, excerpted from materials publicly available from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system:

Postscript: Reader Feedback

The Pineapple Blog recently received from a reader a link to a BusinessWeek online article about Del Monte Fresh Produce. The article (dated February 6, 2006) makes no mention of the Honey Gold.