Photo: Late boat at Waecicu near Labuan Bajo.

What is a pineapple?

The evolution of the pineapple, a fruit symbolic of the delicious and sun-soaked tropics, remains largely a mystery but it was originally grown in Brazil. In most languages, the word for pineapple comes from the Brazilian Tupi Indian word nana or anana, meaning excellent fruit. The pineapple is a composite fruit formed of up to 200 berry-like seedless fruitlets which have coalesced together, resulting in a skin with a repetitive ridged pattern. It grows upright on the stem of a short plant with distinctively large and spikey leaves.

Pineapple contains bromelin, an enzyme which breaks down protein, similar to the enzyme papain, which comes from the papaya and is used as a meat tenderiser. The enzyme is so strong that factory workers who can the fruit have to wear rubber gloves to avoid having their skin eaten away. You can rub pineapple over tough cuts of meat before cooking to help tenderise them.

Rare for a fruit, the pineapple does not continue to ripen after it is picked since it has no reserve of starch to be converted into sugar. Skin colour is not an indicator of ripeness. The best way to test if a pineapple is ready for eating is to sniff the fruit - if it's too ripe it will smell of slight fermentation. But in Southeast Asia, you may not have to worry about this as you can easily buy fruit already peeled and ready to eat from street vendors.

In Cambodia, half-ripe pineapples are used in sour soups, while in Thailand, the half-ripe fruit is popular in salads which combine the tangy fruit with a meat and a salty dressing.

Fruit in Asia FAQ

A bit of history, perhaps a taste-test and an idea on just what some of those Asian fruits really look like.

Asian fruit FAQ

What is a banana?
What is a cantaloupe?
What is a durian?
What is a guava?
What is a jackfruit?
What is a longan?
What is a mangosteen?
What is a papaya?
What is a rambutan?
What is a soursop?
What is a starfruit?
What is a watermelon?

Top of page