The large family Bromeliaceae (3168 species) stands within the huge and culinarily important order Poales, the grasses and grains, which they don't much resemble. They is very well known for spectacular decoratives, and the leaves are an important source of fiber in their region. Only one species is of significant culinary (and economic) significance - very significant, actually. Bromeliads are native to the tropical Americas, and into the subtropical zone. One species is native to Africa, carried there by migratory birds. Photo by Tony Hisgett distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v2.0 Generic.
More on Monocot Flowering Plants.
Pineapple - [Piña,
Ananá (Spanish); Ananas comosus]
The Pineapple is the only bromeliad familiar as food in North America, or just about anywhere else for that matter. There are several patented varieties sold in North America, and plenty of lawsuits as to who owns what. Taken throughout the tropics by the Spanish and Portuguese, some of the top producers are now Brazil, Thailand, Costa Rica and the Philippines. Most sold fresh in North America coming from Hawaii and Costa Rica.
A large flower spike grows at the top of the plant, with about 200 flowers. Each flower produces a berry, and as the berries mature, they fuse together into the multiple fruit we call a "pineapple". Fertilization must be prevented or the pineapple will be full of seeds, a reason why humming birds are illegal in Hawaii. Pineapple is very high in manganese and vitamin C, and low in just about everything else.
South American pineapples are green when ripe but some of the patented
varieties, particularly from Hawaii, are green and gold when ripe.
Appearance and smell are the indicators of ripeness, not thumping or
pulling leaves, and they do not ripen more once picked. Pineapples sold
here in Southern California are about 4 to 5 pounds. The photo specimen,
a 4-1/2 pound fruit, yielded about 2-1/2 pounds (56%) when trimmed and
cored. Chopped it's about 7-1/2 ounces per cup.
Chagual - [Puya chilensis and
other Puya species]
This bromeliad is native to north facing hillsides of the Andes mountains
of west central Chile. It is reported that natives of the region use the
bases of young leaves to make salads. The leaf fibers are probably of
more culinary value because they are used to weave durable fishing nets.
Photo by Mar del Sur distributed under license Creative
Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.