by Tara Davis

This summer, while our attention must, out of necessity, turn away from our Gulf and beaches, it is an opportunity to focus on and take advantage of all the land has to offer. And not just our immediate vicinity, but the goods of the season available from elsewhere – corn, potatoes, citrus, all come by means of  modern transportation to us so we may enjoy them.  One of my favorites of these is pineapple.

First things first – let’s get the rumors out of the way. While it’s a nice thought, pineapples are not actually an aphrodisiac.  They do not induce labor in pregnant women.  They will not enhance anyone’s (very ill advised) illicit drug experience, nor will you contract diseases from eating it.

All clear?  Good. Now on to the good stuff!

While pineapples are closely associated with Hawaii, they are native to South America.  Christopher Columbus was credited with their “discovery” on Guadeloupe in 1493, naming them after their perceived likeness to pine cones, the natives called them “nana” – “excellent fruit.”   It’s hard to argue that.

Over the centuries, pineapples circled the globe, being widely cultivated by the Aztecs, Mayans, and eventually the Spaniards. In Europe, the temperate needs of the crop for growth rendered them difficult to grow, and rare.  They became a symbol of wealth, and were most often used as table décor, reused over and over until rotten, and almost never eaten.

What about that Hawaii stuff?  It was first canned there in 1903 by James Drummond Dole, and after that became the state’s major crop.

While admittedly high in sugar, pineapples claim a whole host of health benefits, including high doses of Vitamin C, antioxidants, enzymes that aid in digestion, inflammation suppression and immunity boosts. As if we needed an excuse to work more into our diets.

Luckily, whether whole, canned or juiced, we can enjoy ia taste of the tropics year round throughout the U.S.   Nothing quite says vacation and warm weather quite like its sweet, acidic touch to the palate. But it isn’t just for desserts and salsas.  Give something else a whirl while rocking your backyard staycation.

The recipes:

Marinade – One medium onion, diced, ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1 Tbsp dry mustard, ½ pineapple, diced (or 1 15 oz can), 3 Tbsp brown sugar.   Combine all and use for pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu.

Shrimp fried rice – Saute 1 medium onion, diced, 2 cloves minced garlic and 1.5 cups diced pineapple.  Add 4 cups cooked jasmine rice, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 small tomato, diced, 2 sliced green onions and ½ cup medium shrimp (raw, peeled).  Saute over medium high heat until shrimp is cooked through.

Sweet and sour sauce – 2 cups pineapple juice, 3 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 cup sugar, ¾ cup tomato paste, 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, ½ cup diced pineapple, 1 tsp garlic.   Combine all. Use for seafood, chicken, beef, pork or vegetables.