News Section: Community
Sunday Favorites: Pineapples in Palmetto
PALMETTO -- Since colonial times, the pineapple has been used as a motif in architecture and served as symbol of hospitality. For a brief period of time, Florida was among the world’s most prolific producers of pineapples; however, as the Pollard family would eventually discover, fierce competition with Cuba, Hawaii and the Caribbean would eventually suppress production – along with those pesky wild cattle that couldn’t seem to get enough pineapples at “The Pinery.”
Pineapples are indigenous to South America and believed to have originated in the area between Southern Brazil and Paraguay, according to the American Journal of Botany.
The native people of that region spread the fruit throughout South America. Pineapples eventually ended up in the Caribbean after centuries of natives migrated, explored and traded across vast expanses of ocean in dugout canoes, according to “The Social History of the Pineapple” by Hoag Levins. According to Levins, the fruit was called "anana," or "excellent fruit,"
“Highly regarded for its intense sweetness, the 'excellent fruit' was a staple of Indian feasts and rites related to tribal affirmation. It was also used to produce Indian wine,” Levins wrote.
It was in the French West Indies on his second voyage in 1493, on the Island of Guadeloupe, that Christopher Columbus first came across “anana.” Columbus and his crew named the fruit piña, because he thought it looked like a pinecone, according to a brief history compiled by the University of Central Florida. Piñas were taken back to Spain, thus making the pineapple the first bromeliad to leave the New World, according to the journal of Bromeliad Society. Pineapples were successfully cultivated in European hot houses and pineapple pits beginning in 1720. Several accounts credit Spanish explorers for introducing pineapples to Hawaii.
American colonists began importing the pineapple from the Caribbean in the 17th century. The pineapple soon became a symbol of hospitality in early America; upon returning from trade routes in the Caribbean or Pacific, New England sea captains often placed a pineapple outside on their porch as a symbol of a safe return and a message to others that they were rested and ready to receive guests, according to UCF.
Commercial production of pineapples in the U.S. first began in Florida in the late 19th century. For a brief period, Florida was among the world's most prolific producers of pineapple. However, by the 1930s, pineapple production in Florida began to fall off, largely due to increased competition from Cuba, Central America and Hawaii.
|The Pollard family poses inside "the Pinery."|
Talbot Sharp Pollard came to Florida from Indiana in 1895 for health reasons. After he recovered from pneumonia, he went back to Indiana, returning with his family the following year.
The Pollard family started a pineapple farm known as “The Pinery” on Fourth Street and Seventh Avenue. The farm was not a success. In addition to competition from growers in the Caribbean and Cuba, his plants proved popular among the area’s free-range cattle, which munched on the immature fruit.
Although pineapples are no longer a product of Florida, the symbol of hospitality still has a large presence in the state. Due to its association with warmth and friendliness, pineapples decorate bedposts, tablecloths, napkins and anything else associated with welcoming guests.
Merab is a writer at the Bradenton Times. She can be reached at email@example.com