It happens every year and before every party. You ask the host what you can bring and he or she says, merrily, “Just yourself.”
But those of us who were brought up by mothers who read Emily Post feel compelled to take something to the person who has worked hard to bring people together during the busy holiday season. It’s the polite thing to do.
Will it be flowers, candy, wine, homemade cookies, or a tree ornament, which they probably don’t want or need?
To all of these common hospitality gifts, I say no. Take a pineapple. It makes sense. The tropical fruit has been a symbol of hospitality for centuries and is used in architecture and home décor as a welcoming sign.
The suggestion has nothing to do with my love of Hawaii. It is more because of two recent experiences when I took a pineapple as a host gift; one to a luncheon and the other to a dinner.
Both hosts extended genuine thanks for a gift that was both practical and delicious.
The pineapple takes well to holiday decorations. Tie a ribbon around the crown or tuck some small baubles in the leaves. Wrap it in festive paper and you may even want to include a favorite recipe.
People who keep track of what and how much we eat report that pineapples are second only to bananas as America’s favorite tropical fruit.
The high consumption includes the canned fruit, juice, and the prepared sliced and chunked fresh fruit that consumers are willing to pay more for rather than be intimidated by removing the pineapple’s rough scaly skin.
Here’s what the pros say to do without a special tool. First remove the crown and cut off the base of the fruit. The frugal consumer, or those with a green thumb, save the crown to plant, hoping that it will mature into a beautiful tropical plant, perhaps even with baby pineapples.
After the base and crown are removed, stand it up and slice off the skin. Hopefully most of the “eyes” will disappear with the skin. Those that remain can be removed with the tip of a knife or the end of a vegetable peeler. At that point the pineapple can be cut into quarters, including the core. Removal of the core on each quarter leaves the meat to be sliced or cubed as desired.
The beauty of the whole fruit with its brownish yellow coloring, the cylindrical shape, and the regal crown of bluish green leaves still makes it a handsome candidate to display, standing tall and encircled with other fruits or even Christmas decorations.
But two days without refrigeration is the limit to avoid spoilage. After that they should be cut up and eaten or wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated.
In addition to appearance and the sweet flavor of the juicy, fibrous flesh, the pineapple scores high nutritionally.
Vitamin C tops the list of nutrients followed by manganese, fiber, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin B1, and foliate. It is low in sodium and cholesterol and because the skin is not eaten as it is in most other fruits, there is no chance of consuming contaminants.
Pineapple is particularly beneficial in aiding the digestive system and is recommended, along with other fruits, as a preventive for the eye disease macular degeneration.
When buying a pineapple, one rule is that if a leaf from the center of the crown pulls out easily, the pineapple is fully ripe.
Consumers who don’t have the courage to go through the pineapple display plucking off leaves should remember to look for the ones without soft spots and bruises.
Here’s how to plant and grow a pineapple crown. The information comes from 17apart.com.
The only things that are needed are the pineapple crown, water, soil, and sunshine.
To remove the crown, do not slice it off, but twist it off, using a slight downward motion to remove it.
To prepare it for rooting, peel off several leaves to expose a clean base.
Before submerging it in water to root, stick three toothpicks around the base. The toothpicks will rest on the edge of the glass of water to prevent the top from sinking to the bottom.
Place the plant in the glass in a sunny window and within days roots should appear and when they do the leaves will become longer and wider.
Change the water often always keeping it high enough to cover the base. When the roots are fully formed, it is time to plant it in soil in a container.
Be patient, because it will probably be two years before fruit matures and there is only one pineapple per plant.
In the meantime you will have a beautiful houseplant, one that thrives on sunshine, water, and TLC.
Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org