Wednesday 1 November 2023


Kerala , my home state in India is blessed with a lot of locally grown tropical fruits. Pineapple is one among them. This exotic fruit is so cheap here that it is available for less than half a USD a KG! And it is abundantly available during the season.But when I read somewhere that pineapple was a status symbol among the elite in Europe some time back- in 16th and 17th century- I decided to make a trail of it to have a better understanding of the theme.

Pineapple is a native of South America especially to Brazil and Paraguay. It was known as 'Ananas Comosus' in Guarani, a local live language which existed there from the days of the conquest of the Spanish. It was Christopher Columbus in 1496 who brought a lone pineapple which survived his long voyage of weeks- in a ship which had only wind power- from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to Spain. He presented it to King Ferdinand as "pina de Indes"- Pine of the Indians thinking that he had just discovered India for this island!. The king fell for the taste of the fruit which was unknown to anyone in Europe till then! The hey days of pineapple commenced that day!!

As pineapples started being available in a limited way in Europe, the wealthy went wild with the taste of this fruit. Along with the taste, pineapple became synonymous with nobility and wealth as it became the favorite of Charles II of Scotland, Catherine the Great of Russia, Louis XV of France and King Ferdinand of Spain!


From the Mayas to "Pineries" of Europe...
Around 750 BC, the Mayas and Aztecs of Mexico were the oldest civilization which cultivated pineapples. Soon it might have spread around the areas of that Continent , but nothing is recorded until Christopher Columbus who transported the first pineapple to Europe in 1496 which he named as "pina de Indes"-Pine of India. Just 25 years later Magellan too discovered the pineapple plant in his exploration of Brazil. Spaniards named the fruit "pinas" due to resemblance to pine cone.
In Europe by mid 1600 pineapples were successfully cultivated in specially designed hot houses called "pineries". In 1677 the first European grown pineapple in England was presented to King Charles II and soon "pinery" became a status symbol.

Pineapple madness...
As the pineapple became sought after, rivalries broke out among the aristocrat families of Europe! It was so expensive that only few could eat it. At one stage it was "rented" out to banquets for display! Pineapples were carved into stones, carpet, sand, wood by artists making pineapple a luxury. By 18th century, the fruit became an architectural feature of selective buildings.In Europe  such a craze reverberated to the extent that a single fruit cost $8000 by today's standards!

How the price came down....
By early 18th century, steamships came into existence for navigation. Long voyages could be made in rather short periods unlike the earlier ships which were depending on wind power. Transport of pineapples in bulk also could be facilitated in shorter period which made Europe to get fresh supplies from far away countries which were colonized by then. Pineapple became a product of colony and prices came down!

 So also many countries of South America. In 1888 John L Jensen, a new migrant to US made a modern plantation of 133 acres extent and export center at Florida. In 1899 James D Dole ,a Harvard graduate developed a modern pineapple plant of 65 acres at Hawaii who was known as pineapple king!

And now..
As the scientific world found out that pineapples are low in calories while high in vitamins,minerals and an antioxidant, the fruit- fresh as well as canned- became very popular.Largest producers of pineapples currently are Philippines, Costa Rica and Brazil.Even fresh pineapples come under world renowned brands like Del Monte,Dole and Chiquita.The best and tastiest pineapple is the Caribbean Antigua Black Pineapple although it is not black.

Pineapple cultivation was introduced to India in 1548 by the Portuguese colonists in Kerala and Goa but was limited to traditional cultivation.Assam,Meghalaya and Tripura are the states where pineapples are grown largely in India currently.There is a village named Vazhakulam near my home town which is very well known for this exotic fruit which I believe has a geographical tag for taste and quality. I have read the other day that Kerala state is in the process of making wine from locally grown pineapples and few more fruits.I am sure that only few might have observed Pineapple motifs built on famous Charminar at Hyderabad as seen below.Interestingly it is there since 16th century built by Qutb Shahi dynasty. 


To this day when the best hotels and banquet halls display fruits from all over the world, it will be crowned by a fresh pineapple! Many countries of the world call pineapple as ananas to this day especially those who speak Arabic, Hindi, German, French and Greek. This is the story of Pina de Indes or ananas  oops pineapple!



  1. Interesting to read about the fruit Pineapple.. Good narration🙏🏼

  2. P P Kailasanathan1 November 2023 at 11:14

    This common pineapple had such a royal story was beyond my imagination. Thank you Jaison for unearthing such wonderfully true stories, nay facts.

    During our very recent annual Family trip to Palakkad by road [21st to 24th Oct], one of the items in our bucket list was 6 nos pineapples (partially ripe around 25%) for my wife's cake making larder. Since my daughters and granddaughter went back by train on 23rd night, the pineapples survived very well on the rear floor of the car in air conditioned comfort, along with the white bitter gourds [my favorite].
    Talking about pineapples, takes me back to my days in Kenya where I was part of the team making an improvised Folding Boom Sprayer with 120 feet span fitted on a Mack full forward control truck [ 4 numbers]. This was a very tricky job where we had to make a number of improvisations on the go to stiffen the boom so that it does not collapse while turning 180 degrees at the end of it's 3 km run one way. The customer was DEL MONTE about whom Jaison had mentioned in his article as a major pineapple processing company.

    We also did 4 smaller Boom Sprayer Trucks on a smaller truck with 60 feet boom spread for Del Monte's tomatoes farm which processed the famous flavored Tomato Sauces in Kenya.

    For our reference and design purposes, we had only some photographs of the trucknounted boom sprayers used by Del Monte in hhe Philippines.

    The pineapples from Kerala are better and sweeter than what we get in Tamilnadu -

  4. Shirly George
    Excellent,,,,,Loved reading it,though we knew certain facts about Pineapple,most of the informations were new to us,each reading gives us fresh insights to the subject...looking out for more...

  5. It is fascinating you have un earthed the history of the pine apple, and established it's exotic ity in a captivating manner. By your exhilarating narration you have adorned this fruit, which was once the cynosure of Africa and Europe placing in a higher platform among the galaxy of fruits. Also briefly described the origin of this exotic fruit and it's vicissitudes and navigation through many countries. Finally concluded with the explanation of the multifarious descriptive and architectural qualities of this enchanting fruit and its subsequent variations in demand and supply causing price fluctuations. Undoubtedly you turbocharged this simple topic to a thought provoking one. I could understand through your writings all along, your own rich experience of being bureaucrat, engineer and educator ---- is a precious tool in your quest to mastering your time and your life. Congratulations.



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