Nothing says “You’re welcome here!” like a pineapple — without question the most historically valid symbol of hospitality of any fruit or vegetable, and bursting with healthy goodness besides.

The first account of the pineapple was given by Christopher Columbus and his men, who landed on the island now known as Guadeloupe on their second voyage of discovery. One of the first things they saw was a pineapple (though they had no name for it).

Columbus brought the succulent fruit back to Europe in 1493. Its cylindrical shape and rough, spiky surface caused the Spaniards to name it “pina,” after the pine cone, although the pineapple is much larger by comparison. The English noted the same resemblance, but also liked apples, hence the word “pineapple.”

Spaniards began placing a pineapple at the entrance to a village as a sign of welcome. This symbolism spread to Europe, then to Colonial North America, where families would set a fresh pineapple in the middle of the table as a colorful centerpiece, especially when visitors joined them in celebration. The fruit would then be served as a special desert after the meal. Often when the visitor spent the night, he was given the bedroom that had pineapples intricately carved on the bedposts or atop the headboard — even if the bedroom belonged to the head of the household. Thus the phrase “I slept with the pineapples” means getting a good night’s rest.

Today, the medical community sings the praises of the pineapple, since it’s rich in vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. A serving of pineapple contains 130% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, as well as thiamin which assists the body in energy production. Pineapples also contain the anti-inflammatory enzyme Bromelain. What’s more, drinking pineapple juice is said to be five times more effective than cough syrup when you have a tickle in your throat. What’s not to like?

Shown above: British politician Margaret Thatcher holding up a pineapple for good luck during her 1978 campaign. It must have worked, as she won the election to become the first woman prime minister in the western world.