Hurray for good old Christopher Columbus, who discovered and introduced us to a variety of curious fruit and vegetables.

In 1493, Columbus stumbled upon a spiky-looking plant on the tropical island of Guadeloupe.

One of his crew described it as being "in the shape of a pine cone, twice as big, which fruit is excellent and it can be cut with a knife, like a turnip and it seems to be wholesome".

The explorers named it pina de Indes and took it home to Spain. The exotic fruit was popular with sailors as its vitamin C content prevented scurvy.

Later on, the English added the word apple.

Pineapples are so versatile, juicy and delicious, they have become firm favourites worldwide.

Apart from vitamin C, the pineapple is full of fibre and the bone-building mineral manganese.

Fresh pineapple juice is an effective traditional remedy for sore throats and boxing enthusiasts might prefer to treat a black eye with a slice of fresh pineapple instead of raw steak.

There is no need to find the prospect of preparing a whole pineapple daunting. Simply cut off the top, slice it in half lengthwise and then again.

Remove the core, peel off the rind and cut into chunks for a fresh fruit salad. If you have any leftovers, spear them with a toothpick, freeze until solid and use as a treat for children.

Nutritional scientists show much interest in a compound called bromelain found in pineapple.

Bromelain is a proteolytic enzyme which means it is capable of digesting protein.

When eaten directly after a meal, it aids the breakdown of proteins into amino acids. Fresh is best because the canning process deactivates the enzyme in the fruit.

If you require assistance with your digestion but don't happen to be the owner of a pineapple plantation in the tropics, you can buy concentrated extracts of bromelain in tablet form from health food stores.

Bromelain is also a powerful natural antiinflammatory agent without side-effects and is popular for treating arthritic conditions.

Some sufferers may be able to decrease their dosage of corticosteroids due to its remarkable ability to reduce swelling and pain and increase joint mobility.

Furthermore, bromelain enhances wound healing and is effective in treating sportsrelated injuries such as muscle tenderness, sprains and strains.

Bromelain is less well known for its ability to improve respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and catarrh by reducing the viscosity of bronchial secretions.

By doing so, it seems to support and potentiate the action of antibiotics.

There is also research to suggest it may be as effective as antibiotics in treating variety of infections always inform your doctor if you are on prescribed medication).

Unless used as a digestive aid, it is important to take bromelain on an empty stomach between mealtimes to make the most of its healing qualities.