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Pineapple

My passion for food is not confined to recipes. I love to learn everything I can about the entire subject, including how it is grown, the process of refining raw products and how it progresses until the final result ends up on your plate at the dining room table. I also love learning everything about how it is served at home, in a restaurant or at a banquet. Anything and everything about food simply captivates me!

I found the following fascinating; perhaps you will, too. I had no idea the pineapple you pick up at the grocery store or at a farmers market had such an interesting "life story."

A simple pineapple: The pineapple is a member of the bromeliad family, which is a plant native to tropical and subtropical America, typically having short stems with rosettes of stiff, usually spiny leaves. Some kinds are epiphytic and some are cultivated as houseplants. It is extremely rare that bromeliads produce edible fruit. The pineapple is the only available edible bromeliad today. It is a multiple fruit. One pineapple is actually made up of dozens of individual flowerettes that grow together to form the entire fruit. Each scale on a pineapple is evidence of a separate flower.

Pineapples stop ripening the minute they are picked. No special way of storing them will help ripen them further. Color is relatively unimportant in determining ripeness. Choose your pineapple by smell. If it smells fresh, tropical and sweet, it will be a good fruit.

The more scales on the pineapple, the sweeter and juicier the taste. After you cut off the top, you can plant it. I always did this whenever I bought a fresh pineapple while I was living in Florida. It sometimes would take two years, but my homegrown pineapples were sweet and delicious as well as easy to care for. They only required a little watering during the winter months, when rain was sparse.

This delicious fruit is not only sweet and tropical, it also offers many benefits to our health. Pineapple is a remarkable fruit. We find it enjoyable because of its lush, sweet and exotic flavor, but it may also be one of the most healthful foods available today. If we take a more detailed look at it, we will find that pineapple is valuable for easing indigestion, arthritis or sinusitis. The juice has an anthelmintic effect; it helps get rid of intestinal worms.

Let's look at how pineapple affects other conditions. Pineapple is high in manganese, a mineral that is critical to development of strong bones and connective tissue. A cup of fresh pineapple will give you nearly 75 percent of the recommended daily amount. It is particularly helpful to older adults, whose bones tend to become brittle with age.

Bromeliain, a proteolytic enzyme, is the key to pineapple's value. Proteolytic means "breaks down protein," which is why pineapple is known to be a digestive aid. It helps the body digest proteins more efficiently. Bromelain is also considered an effective anti-inflammatory.

Regular ingestion of at least half a cup of fresh pineapple daily is purported to relieve painful joints common to osteoarthritis. It also produces mild pain relief.

In Germany, bromelain is approved as a post-injury medication because it is thought to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Orange juice is a popular liquid for those suffering from a cold because it is high in vitamin C. Fresh pineapple is not only high in this vitamin, but because of the bromelain, it has the ability to reduce mucous in the throat. If you have a cold with a productive cough, add pineapple to your diet. It is commonly used in Europe as a post-operative measure to cut mucous after certain sinus and throat operations.

Those individuals who eat fresh pineapple daily report fewer sinus problems related to allergies. In and of itself, pineapple has a very low risk for allergies.

Pineapple is also known to discourage blood clot development. This makes it a valuable dietary addition for frequent fliers and others who may be at risk for blood clots.

An old folk remedy for morning sickness is fresh pineapple juice. It really works! Fresh juice and some nuts first thing in the morning often make a difference. It's also good for a healthier mouth. The fresh juice discourages plaque growth.

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Bob Leonardi was born and raised in Weedsport, but spent summers on Owasco Lake in Auburn. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, where he cooked for other students to earn extra money, he moved to Florida and started a fine wine and gourmet food store. In a matter of a few years he added a restaurant, upscale catering and event planning to his business, which he ran in Fort Lauderdale for 15 years. He bought and restored Green Shutters restaurant in 1999, running it for 12 years. He now writes for a society newspaper as a restaurant critic in Florida and has written his column for The Citizen since 2005. He continues his catering and event planning business while living in Boca Raton with his wife, Veronica, and son Geoffrey during the winter months. He can be reached by contacting The Citizen or via email at raleonardi@roadrunner.com.

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