Botanical and Cultural Adventures

Botanical and Cultural Adventures

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tasty Bromeliads - Bromelia karatas, the piñuela

piñuela
I love plants and I love eating. When I can combine the two out hiking and exploring I am a happy camper! When they involve my favorite plants, the bromeliads, it can't get any better. The most common and popular edible bromeliad is the pineapple (Ananas comosus)...for good reason. But there are other bromeliads that are also great food sources. Several species in the genus Bromelia have their fruit (technically a berry) harvested and eaten. Here we see a Bromelia karatas with a massive collection of ripe berries, often called 'piñuelas'.


piñuela

Piñuela is a common name given to several species of Bromelia, also including the species Bromelia pinguin which produces a stem where the flowers and then the berries will form. Bromelia karatas produces its flowers and berries tucked down in the rosette of leaves. Above is a particularly massive head of berries. To the left is probably a bit more typical. 



Bromelia karatas fruit




When ripe, the berries should have good color and pop off with just a little wiggle.






Bromelia karatas fruit




They will range in color and the bottom half may still be white, but they still should be ripe. The berries usually have a bit of the fuzz left on from the inflorescence. It should be easy to rub off making the skin of the berry shiny.




piñuela








I find it easiest to bite the stem end of the fruit and start peeling it back like the skin of a banana.



piñuela



Biting into them is almost like crunching a slightly crisp and tart watermelon (remember to mind the seeds!). The flavor is fairly strong with a tart and astringent aspect. I've been recommended not to eat too many at once, but it is refreshing to eat three or four. Sometimes they are available in the markets (when they are in season and harvested) and I look forward to the opportunity to taste the drink that is made from them.