Kshitij, who was all of seven years, wanted to know why he's called Kshitij and not Sidhartha or Sumit as his best friends were called. His mother explained to him why names are unique and the importance and meaning of his name. All this made him wonder as to how various plants and animals got their names? What prompted people to call banana a banana and a pineapple a pineapple and not something else?

Actually there is a reason behind the names given to each and every thing; be it a fruit, vegetable, an animal or inanimate objects like stars, planets, etc. However, sometimes the names are misleading, Take the example of pineapple: no it doesn't come from a pine tree, nor is it an apple.

When you look at a pineapple you may think you are looking at one fruit. Actually, the pineapple is a group of tightly packed small fruits!

The pineapple is native of southern Brazil and Paraguay in South America. Native Indians spread this fruit, called Ananas, through South and Central America to the West Indies. In 1493, Columbus, on his voyage to the Caribbean, found the fruit on the island of Guadaloupe.

To the European eye, this curious new fruit had an abrasive, segmented exterior like a pinecone and inside the fruit had a firm interior pulp like an apple. So combining the two they called it 'pineapple'.

In Europe, sweets and fresh tropical fruit were not common. These were imported at great cost from various voyages and expeditions. In such circumstances, this ripe yellow fruit, which was bursting with natural sweetness, made the pineapple a coveted fruit. It was such a luxury that King Charles II of England posed for an official portrait where he is seen receiving a pineapple as a gift! For many years after, rich Europeans carefully grew the pineapple in private greenhouses.

Today pineapple fields exist in many parts of the world, including the West Indies, Florida, Northern Africa, Hawaii and Australia. The pineapple plant grows about 2 meter high with a spread of 3 to 4 ft. It is essentially a short, stout stem with a rosette of waxy, strap like leaves and bears its fruits at any time of the year. The leaves of the pineapple plant are also useful for they contain a fibre that can be made into cloth.

Pineapples are grown from new vegetative growth. Home gardeners prefer the top or the crown of the fruit. The crown is removed from the fruit by twisting until it comes free. The bottom leaves are removed and the crown is left to dry for two days, then planted.

Next time your Mom makes the "Oh! So delicious pineapple pudding" for you, you can surprise her by reeling off all the details you know about the fruit - I am sure she will happily make another equally tasty dish for you!
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