Early History

Prior to the discovery of the pineapple fruit by Cristobal Colón (Christopher Columbus) on 4 November 1493 (Morrison, 1963), the fruit was already a stable component of the vegetative-crop complex and in the diet of native Americans in the lowland tropics (Laufer, 1929). The European explorers were impressed by this large and delicious fruit and often mentioned and described it in their chronicles. These early reports indicate that domesticated pineapple was already very widely distributed in the Americas (Orinoco, Amazon, coastal Brazil around Rio de Janeiro) and the Caribbean prior to the arrival of Columbus (Collins, 1960). In some cases, the Europeans themselves could have contributed to pineapple dispersion in the continent. Indeed, the many plants (e.g. lemon, orange, sugar cane, banana and plantain) introduced by Colón from the Canary Islands since his second voyage were distributed by the natives throughout tropical America in less than two decades, as evidenced by banana and plantain cultivation in Puerto Bello in 1503 (Colón, 1506). On the other hand, if the natives dispersed these new crops so quickly, they very probably had done the same with pineapple long before Colón. Other evidence points to the antiquity of pineapple cultivation. Thus, the names 'nanas' and 'ananas' were extensively used throughout South America and the Caribbean. Early European explorers observed a high degree of domestication and selection exhibited in the pineapples they found. The Amerindians easily distinguished landraces from the wild types and had developed a thorough knowledge of the crop agronomy, including its production cycle. Specifically adapted landraces (e.g. the Andean 'Perolera' and 'Manzana') were found with variation in fruit yield and quality. Five additional centuries of work by talented horticulturists and modern plant breeders have not added significantly to the variety of domesticated types (Leal and Coppens d'Eeckenbrugge, 1996; Coppens d'Eeckenbrugge et al., 1997).

In addition to the fresh fruit, the native Americans used pineapple for the preparation of alcoholic beverages (pineapple wine, chicha and guarapo), for the production of fibre, and for medicinal purposes, as an emmenagogue, abortifacient, antiamoebic and vermifuge and for the correction of stomachal disorders, and for the poisoning

© CAB International 2003. The Pineapple: Botany, Production and Uses (eds D.P. Bartholomew, R.E. Paull and K.G. Rohrbach)

of arrowheads. Most of these medicinal uses are related to the proteolytic enzyme bromelain of the pineapple (Leal and Coppens d'Eeckenbrugge, 1996). The native Americans also domesticated the curagua, a smooth-leaved type with a higher yield of long and strong fibres, and used it for making nautical and fishing-lines, fishing nets, hammocks and loincloths (Leal and Amaya, 1991). There is still a small traditional industry based on pineapple fibre in Brazil (Leme and Marigo, 1993) and even in the Philippines, where 'pina cloth' was mentioned as early as 1571 (Collins, 1960; Montinola, 1991).

From the early 1500s, the pineapple fascinated the Europeans, who introduced and grew it in greenhouses. The first successful greenhouse cultivation was by Le Cour, or La Court, at the end of the 17th century near Leyden. He published a treatise on pineapple horticulture, including 'forcing' the plants to flower. Pineapple plants were distributed from The Netherlands to English gardeners in 1719 and to France in 1730 (Gibault, 1912). As pineapple cultivation in European greenhouses expanded during the 18th and 19 th centuries, many varieties were imported, mostly from the Antilles. Griffin (1806) described ten of them and considered most of the others as useless and their cultivation cumbersome. Others have described numerous varieties (Loudon, 1822; Munro, 1835; Beer, 1857). The now famous variety Cayenne Lisse ('Smooth Cayenne') was introduced from French Guiana by Perrotet in 1819 (Perrotet, 1825). With the notable exceptions of 'Smooth Cayenne' and 'Queen', most of these early varieties disappeared as commercial cultivation in Europe declined and pineapple fruit was imported from the West Indies.

'Smooth Cayenne' and 'Queen' were taken from Europe to all tropical and subtropical regions (Fig. 1.1; Collins, 1951). The Spaniards and Portuguese dispersed other varieties, including 'Singapore Spanish', to Africa and Asia during the great voyages of the 16th and 17th centuries. However, the diversity of these varieties is still negligible compared with the variation found in America. 'Smooth Cayenne' is by far the most important variety in world trade; many others are only grown regionally for local consumption. Both Smooth Cayenne and Singapore Spanish can be called true culti-vars (see Coppens d'Eeckenbrugge and Leal, Chapter 2, this volume).

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