Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the October 29, 2017 Newsletter issued from Rancho Regensis north of Valladolid, Yucatán, MÉXICO

Elsewhere we've seen how the pineapple-like plant called Piñuela produces cigar-shaped fruits that taste somewhat like pineapple. Piñuela is fairly common in the scrubby forest around the rancho, but wherever and whenever they're found normally they're not producing fruits. However, this week one plant was encountered absolutely loaded with immature fruits, as you can see below:

Piñuela, BROMELIA PINGUIN, immature fruits

A close-up of some fruits is shown below:

Piñuela, BROMELIA PINGUIN, immature fruits close-up

I'm keeping my eye on this plant, hoping to enjoy some ripe Piñuela fruits later on.

From the March 31, 2008 Newsletter written in the community of 28 de Junio and issued from a ciber in Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
{at about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT 16° 18'N, LONG -92° 28'W.}

In the transition zone between weedy, hacked-over scrub down below and open oak forest higher up a conspicuous member of the Bromelia Family appeared. You may remember the abundandant bromeliads gracing tree limbs at Yerba Buena in the Chiapas uplands. The species encountered on Cerro de Cruz Grande differed from those species both by being terrestrial and by growing much larger, as you can see below:


This is Piñuela (pee-nyoo-EH-la), BROMELIA PINGUIN. In the picture Andrés is holding in his hand the thing that makes the plant famous in these parts: Some tasty fruits. You can see a close-up of the fruits below:

Piñuela fruits, BROMELIA PINGUIN

Piñuelas were common in the scrub back in the Yucatan and I always wanted to sample a fruit but never got to. I thought my failure to find a fruit was because I always left the Yucatan before the fruits ripened but now I suspect it was because I didn't know you had to dig down into the leafy debris gathered in the plant's center, as shown in the first photo. Andrés knew exactly where to thrust his hand into the clutter, though, and came up with fruits his first try.

Before anything is done with the fruits you need to thoroughly brush or wipe off the rusty-brown, very thin, sharp hairs visible in the fruit picture mantling both ends of the fruits. If a hair lodges in your lips or tongue it stings for a long time. The fruits are a little like small bananas, in the sense that you must peel off the tough covering to get at the sweet interior. Piñuelas can be cooked in campfire embers but they're also good raw. Andrés warns to not eat more than one, though, because if you do you'll develop burn-blisters, same as if you eat too much pineapple.

In fact, Piñuelas are closely related to Pineapple plants. Both are in the Bromelia Family and both are among the small minority of terrestrial bromeliads. The Piñuela fruit tastes a bit like pineapple, but contains hard seeds.

From the August 25, 2008 Newsletter written in Sabacché and issued from a ciber in nearby Tekit, Yucatán, MÉXICO

The other day I met Don Vicente out in the scrub and he showed me how to reach into a big, stiff-bladed, spine-margined Piñuela the way Andrés had done earlier, but this time Andrés retrieve the pinch of pale orange fuzz you can see below:

Piñuela, BROMELIA PINGUIN, fuzz for staunching blood

"If you're gathering firewood and you cut yourself so that the blood just runs down your arm," he said, "you go collect this fuzz. Spread it over your cut as if it were a bandage, and it'll stop the bleeding."

I've run into lots of blood-staunching remedies like this and I always wonder whether the thing being talked about possesses a particular chemical that staunches the blood, or whether just about any powder or fine-textured material will do. I carry Golden Seal powder for cuts, and we all know that placing a small patch of toilet paper over a cut will staunch it. In some cultures spider webs are placed over the cuts.

I think the main idea is to provide lots of surface area over which the blood's platelets can arrange themselves, and most powders, most thin-pulpy tissues, most wads of slender filaments, and most fuzzes will do the job.

Or maybe really there's a special chemical coating Piñuela-fruit fuzz that almost magically orders the blood's platelets just the way they need to be to work effectively, and that chemical is just waiting to be discovered by science.

In the scrub around Sabacché Piñuelas are abundant, but in August, the middle of the rainy season, there are no fruits, just the soft fuzz.