Pineapple in Indonesia

There is nothing more delightful for breakfast than a nice bowl of mixed and sliced fruit. Pineapple (Nanas) slices put into a blender also makes an ideal drink on a hot day. Just add ice!. Pineapple sliced and put on a BBQ is just as delightful. You can buy sliced pineapple from the kaki lima in most towns and cities for a cheap price. Great to slake the thirst when you are out walking and sightseeing.

In Indonesia the sweetness of pineapple depends on the region they are grown. The sweetest are from those grown in the Sudanese highlands as gastronome and epicurean el supremo Suryatini N. Ganie tells us:

Going home to the rather rural area south of Jakarta where I live, I saw heaps of pineapples at the roadside. They were beautifully pinecone shaped, some were soft yellow colored and some light green. The guy who was selling them gave me a very reasonable price, Rp 10,000 for three, as well as giving one to my driver.

He looked a bit passive when he received the money. “These are the first I sold today,” he said, “I think nobody wants pineapples. The weather is a bit cold and pineapples are cooling, and there are so many of them.”

The pineapples from the nearby Sundanese Highlands he was selling were extremely sweet, and when made to a kind of marmalade they make an excellent filling for pies. So why do people buy so few pineapples compared to bananas, watermelons or other fruits sold along the side of the road.

“They are a bit difficult to clean,” a friend said and told me rather vaguely that for expecting women pineapple is taboo. Poor pineapple, because in many countries the fruit is actually very popular.

First, for the delicious and sweet-sourish taste and then, no less, as an additional health food. The pineapple has among others benefits a soothing effect on sore throats because it contains the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain (Rebecca Wood, New Whole Foods Encyclopedia). Actually, when the monsoons are on and chilly winds are blowing and most people suffer from sore throats, they should eat pineapple.

In Indonesia, the fruit is grown in many regions with cooler climates, like Brastagi, North Sumatra, Palembang and further south. In Java, it is the Lembang pineapple which seems to be the queen, but going from island to island, excellent pineapples are grown around the country.

This island-hopping gave the fruit “many different faces” because the soil on different islands is different. So, there are small round pineapples, ones that are long and a bit on the slim side, and plump and round ones.

Some regional pineapple dishes have become renowned, eaten as is with a rujak sauce, stewed to a setup nanas, which is pineapple slices or chunks brought shortly to the boil and then simmered with granulated sugar and cinnamon sticks, or as an addition to some heavily spiced dishes.

The kari kambing Aceh, for example, has pacri nanas, a pickled, sweet, sour and spicy pineapple, as its steady companion.

But it is not only local dishes that rely on pineapples. Some Dutch-oriented sweet fare, popular in Indonesia through the years and mostly served at important religious events like Idul Fitri, are filled with pineapple.

There is, for example, the nastar, a sibling of the Dutch ananas taart in miniature. The French contributed to the popularity of pineapples in Indonesia with a fried beignet a l’ ananas.

Pineapples have for centuries been a very interesting plant and have been the topic of conversation in many countries among food experts. The pineapple was thought to originate from Brazil, but was actually a local plant in Guadaloupe and was discovered in 1403 by companions of Christopher Columbus. The Spaniards who first reached the Caribbean found the pineapple ubiquitous there and later on the mainland of Central and South America (Food, Waverley Root).

As have other plants, the pineapple traveled the globe but the experts, according to Waverley Root, do not know when the pineapple was first planted in Java. Presumably around 1599 the pineapple had already been on the island long enough to have escaped from cultivation and established itself as in the jungle.

Today, the pineapple is not considered a foreign plant and is “at home” in many regions in Indonesia, not only on the island of Java.