I love everything about pineapples, especially during the winter.
Maybe I crave them this time of year because a cup of pineapple chunks provides 131% of the Vitamin C our body needs daily, in addition to other vitamins and minerals. In my pocket of the PNW there are so many families currently struck with severe colds and flu's, so I know we can all use a delicious extra boost of Vitamin C.
One of my favorite brunch or lunch or warm weather dinner salads features pineapple, and it couldn't be easier to make. Just mix pineapple chunks with chopped fresh mint leaves. The flavor of these two ingredients marry beautifully to create a more complex tropical fruit flavor with a rich herbaceous finish from the mint leaves. Once mixed and allowed to sit for 10 minutes or so, it is actually difficult to distinguish the flavor of the individual ingredients because they complement each other so nicely. I like to chiffonade the mint, but any style of chopping the leaves will do.
Pineapples have been the ultimate symbol of welcome, friendship and hospitality since the American colonial period. Over the past couple of years, I've been thrilled to find these petite Pineapple plants at Trader Joe's, they make for a very easy welcoming display tucked into old silver trophies and wine buckets, with a small mass of moss, near the front door.
I first saw these little pineapples when we were driving from Durbin to the Falaza Game Park and Spa, located on the Elephant Coast, Kwazulu-Natal, in South Africa years ago. The fields filled with these beautiful gray~green spiky plants seemed to be endless. We chose Falaza because we wanted a classic tented Safari experience, and their camp only had the "BIG 3", Elephants, Rhinos and Cape Buffalo's, but no cats (the BIG 5 includes lions and leopards). We still had to be careful and follow the rules of the park, but this situation allowed us to have that experience with our young children. One of my greatest memories is the horseback safari we took as a family at Falaza. We walked and trotted through the red sand forests, with herds of giraffes coming near to play with our horses, it was such an extraordinary experience.
Since then, I've ordered these Small South African Pineapples from the produce department in my local grocery to weave into evergreen garlands for Christmas decorations.
I love this excerpt I found in a very conclusive article on The Social History of the Pineapple by Hoag Levins.
"In larger, well-to-do homes, the dining room doors were kept closed to heighten visitors' suspense about the table being readied on the other side. At the appointed moment, and with the maximum amount of pomp and drama, the doors were flung open to reveal the evening's main event. Visitors confronted with pineapple-topped food displays felt particularly honored by a hostess who obviously spared no expense to ensure her guests' dining pleasure
In this manner, the fruit which was the visual keystone of the feast naturally came to symbolize the high spirits of the social events themselves; the image of the pineapple coming to express the sense of welcome, good cheer, human warmth and family affection inherent to such gracious home gatherings."
If you haven't already, do hop over to read the Brief and Colorful story of a Truly American Plant by Mr. Levins to see how this coveted fruit captured the imagination of early Americans and influenced our style of entertaining, architecture and decor.