Tuesday, November 17, 2009

PINEAPPLE - Brazil's royal fruit

The pineapple,one of the most commercially important fruits in the world, likely originated in Southern Brazil or Paraguay, and was already widespread throughout the tropical Americas when Christopher Columbus first tasted one on the Caribbean island of Guadaloupe in 1493.

In Brazil there are two words for pineapple - abacaxi which comes from a Tupi word meaning "stinking fruit"  and ananás, which comes from the Guarani language. Normally abacaxi refers to a variety that is taller, with longer leaves, and ananás refers to a variety that is more rounded and with shorter leaves. Incidentally, the English word pineapple was an earlier name for what it called today a "pine cone".

Brazilians eat a tremendous amount of this fruit, which is widely available year-round and inexpensive. Commercial production in Brazil last year totaled 1.43 million tons. Streetside vendors throughout Brazil sell whole pineapples, peeled and prepared, or slices of the fruit to refresh passers-by. Markets and supermarkets display mountains of pineapples. Juice bars blend fresh pineapple juice, often mixing it with mint. Pineapple ice cream has always been one of Brazil's favorite flavors. And canned pineapples and pineapple juice are exported from Brazil to places around the world.

Pineapple juice is also commonly used in marinades and sauces for meat, due to presence of the enzyme bromelin in the fruit. Bromelin breaks down protein, and thus tenderizes meat during the marinading process.

Pineapple can also be found as a flavoring ingredient in savory dishes, and one of the most spectacular Brazilian party dishes is a hollowed half-pineapple stuffed with shrimp in a pineapple sauce.


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