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The pineapple, a proud fruit

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There will come a time when we must salute and honour those brigands, those buccaneers, those traffickers who risked their lives crossing the seas and braving the hurricanes to bring us a marvellous array of spices, of citrus and other exotic fruits. One such was the pineapple.

Let’s be clear: if we had sat around doing nothing, our dinner plates would be unappetising and our health unsure. But thanks to the unbounded energy of these anti-heroes, and their appetite for gain, seeds and seedlings sailed the seven seas. Those were the days before nature was handcuffed into licences by the big agribusiness trusts. The flowers and transplantations flourished, and today we enjoy a rich array of foods we would never have imagined before.

 

 

The star of local markets

Pineapples and Mauritius belong to this tumultuous and fertile history. The arrival and cultivation of pineapples date back to sometime in the 19th century, but as often happens, you have to go further back to find traces of this herbaceous plant. It is very fussy. It doesn’t much care for water, which drains its energy and rots its roots. It prefers to have plenty of air. Often pollinated by hummingbirds, these plants offer us a rare moment of beauty when they are covered with blue flowers. It only lasts one day, and then it’s over.

The best places to find pineapples are the markets. Markets are part of a pineapple’s life. They are where it finds its hour of glory, its terroir and its good humour. An integral part in the life of any fruit, particularly a pineapple, is to experience the noise and bustle of a market stall, where, for the one and only time before its imminent demise, it is gently taken up and at last feels desired.

 


 

There’s no shortage of markets in Mauritius. It’s something of a national sport. All the different communities meet there. Sometimes you can even see one or two genuinely curious tourists, genetically controlled. The one in Port Louis is the most famous, renowned for its amazing diversity, little stalls, its street food and the pure joy of community living. But if it’s a unique, authentic experience you’re looking for, you’ll have to get off the beaten track and head for some wonderful little markets full of life and animation: the market in Goodlands, south of Grand Gaube, or the one in Mahébourg. No need to thank us, we’re delighted to send you somewhere else!

Proud and generous

Take a good look at the Mauritian pineapple. It’s not very big (15-20 cm). But don’t take that as a flaw. Specialists will even hint that what you are holding is the queen (which oddly enough is the name of the variety: Queen) and in particular, the Victoria, unquestionably the best variety of pineapple on earth, and the one that all good restaurants want. A pineapple has character. Just look at its scaly coat, playing on hexagons, prizing the diagonals. It’s like a plastron, a coat of mail. A kind of pride, bordering on arrogance, as if it were hiding a treasure. Which it is.

Pineapples have lots going for them. Vitamins galore, fibre, trace elements and good humour. Basically they aid the digestion, and fill you up without too much sugar (it’s all you need). It is therefore good-natured.

 

 

That is also why it makes such a regal entry in the kitchen. Not to lay down the law – far from it – but to help, remove, accompany, to uplift the dishes. They do all the work. Calm the meat, full of sweet-talk it (think sweet and sour). They brighten up the fish, take them up into a different song. They also liven up salads, and smiles, and as for desserts, well, there’s mousse, crumble, juice and delicious cakes. It’s all there in their character. Proud perhaps, but generous too.

By François Simon
Photographs Mathilde De L’écotais/Cook&CMYK FHMTPHOTO