Monday, July 18, 2011

Pineapples on Steroids - Abacaxi Gigante

OK, so the picture above isn't a real pineapple (abacaxi in Portuguese) - just one of those "big things" that dot landscapes around the world highlighting local products. Sort of like the colossal Easter egg outside Vegreville, Alberta, Canada, or the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota. And it's not even in Brazil; it's in Australia.

There are giant pineapples in Brazil, though, and scientists from Embrapa, the Brazilian federal Agricultural Research Institute, are trying to track them down. They've traveled to the remotest corners and regions of Brazil looking for over-sized pineapples, and have found some startling examples. In Turauacá in the remote state of Acre, near the headwaters of the Amazon river system, local indigenous tribes cultivate a pineapple that can grow up to 15 kgs (33 lbs). And at Oiapoque, Amapa, the northernmost city in the entire country, on the border with French Guiana, the indigenous Galibus tribe grows pineapples that weight around 10 kgs (22 lbs) and can be more than 16 inches (40 cm) in height.
Giant pineapples from Turauacá

The purpose of all this travel and research isn't just to stake a claim in the Guiness Book of World Records for the biggest pineapple. There's a more noble purpose in mind to the project. It's part of an effort to build a genetic database of pineapple varieties and variations in order to protect the biodiversity of both cultivated pineapples and their wild ancestors and cousins, and thus ensure the genetic health of one of Brazil's most important food crops.

The humungous size of some of these varieties and variations are merely the believe-it-or-not whimsical aspects of a vital project to preserve Brazil's agricultural biodiversity.

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