We know them mostly as essential for piña coladas and upside-down cakes, but pineapples have played many other roles in years past. Here, seven ways in which the spiky, tropical fruit was used by pirates, explorers and more.
1. As an alternative to cannibalism. We can probably thank Christopher Columbus for bringing pineapples to the Western world. Legend has it that on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493, the explorer and his crew were offered a choice of dishes: pineapple or stew made from human body parts. They opted for the fruit. When Columbus brought pineapples back home, Europeans raved about their sugary, sweet flavor.
2. As a display of wealth. Two centuries after the explorers bit into their first pineapple, gardeners finally figured out how to cultivate the fruit in non-tropical Europe. Until then, the fruit was shipped across seas (often rotting en route), which drove up its price tag. It thus became an important symbol of wealth and status. King Charles II even posed for his official portrait receiving a pineapple as a gift.