The Paris Review

The Strange History of the “King-Pine”

Recent pineapple decorating trends.

“There is no nobler fruit in the universe,” Jean de Léry writes of the pineapple. Charles Lamb loved the fruit erotically: “Pleasure bordering on pain, from the fierceness and insanity of her relish, like a lovers’ kisses she biteth.”  Pieter de la Court professes: “One can never be tire’d with looking on it.” How did these men, and so many others, become so enraptured with the pineapple? And how have we forgotten its former grandeur?

In 1496, when Christopher Columbus was returning from his second voyage to the Americas, he brought back a consignment of pineapples. Little did he know that this golden gift, nestled among the tame parrots, tomatoes, tobacco, and pumpkins, would be the crowning glory of his cargo.

The fateful pineapple that reached King Ferdinand was the sole survivor: it was the only specimen that had not dissolved into a sticky rot during the journey. It produced enough of an impression for Peter Martyr, tutor to the Spanish princes, to record the first tasting: “The most invincible King

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