The pineapple is actually the best known member of bromeliad family, all of which are marked by magnificent blooms. The pineapple doesn’t grow on a tree. It is actually a perennial plant which grows to heights of 3 1/2 – 5ft. Each plant has 30 or more trough-shaped and pointed leaves 1 – 3 1/2 ft long, surrounding a thick stem.
The fruit have a wide cylindrical shape, a scaly green, brown or yellow skin and a crown of spiny, blue-green leaves. Pineapples are actually a multiple fruit the composite of many flowers arranged in two interlocking helices, eight in one direction, thirteen in the other around a central core. Each flower produces a fruit that becomes pressed against the fruits of adjacent flowers, forming what appears to be a single fruit. Each “fruitlet” can be identified by an “eye,” or a rough spiny marking on the pineapple’s surface.
The fruit of a pineapple are second only to bananas as America’s favorite tropical fruit.
The fibrous flesh is yellow in color and has a vibrant tropical flavor that balances the tastes of sweet and tart. The area closer to the base of the fruit has more sugar content and therefore a sweeter taste and more tender texture.
The pineapple originated in southern Brazil and Paraguay spread throughout South America, and eventually reached the Caribbean. Columbus discovered it in the West Indies and brought it back with him to Europe. By the end of the 16th century, Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced pineapples into many of their Asian, African and South Pacific colonies where they are still being grown today.The fruit was cultivated successfully in European hothouses, beginning in 1720.
Introduced to Hawaii in 1813; exports of canned pineapples began in 1892. Large scale cultivation by U.S. companies began in the early 1900s on Hawaii. Among the most famous and influential pineapple industrialists was James Dole, who started his plantation in Hawaii in the year 1900.
Pineapple is available fresh, canned, frozen, dried and as juice. Pineapple contains an enzyme which breaks down protein. Pineapple juice can thus be used as a marinade and tenderizer for meat. Likewise the same enzymes in raw pineapples can interfere with the preparation of some foods, such as jelly or other gelatin-based desserts. The bromelain breaks down in the canning process so canned pineapple can be used with gelatin.
Pineapple is a good source of manganese, as well as containing significant amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin.
Whole pineapples should have deep green leaves that show no yellowing, browning or dryness. Look for pineapples that are heavy for their size. Larger specimens will have a greater proportion of edible flesh but there is usually no difference in quality between a small and large size pineapple provided it is properly ripe.
They should be free of soft spots, bruises and dark or watery “eyes.” The eyes of the pineapple are those thorny studs within the puffy squares of the skin.
Central American varieties are still green when ripe so the true test for ripeness is to look at the bottom of the fruit. A yellow color breaking through the bottom indicates that sugar has developed and it is ready to eat.
Ripe pineapples should give off a good, fresh tropical smell, so avoid ones that give of an unpleasant musty, sour or fermented odor.
Pineapple stops ripening as soon as it is picked, so choose a ripe fruit with a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened pineapple.
How to cut up a whole pineapple
Cutting up a fresh pineapple can seem a bit daunting but enjoying it fresh is worth the effort.
- Set the pineapple on its side on the cutting board
- Grab the pineapple in the middle and hold firmly
- Cut off the crown (part with the leaves sticking out)
- Cut off the base
- Set the pineapple on its base
- Starting at the top cut downward removing the exterior skin working your way around the pineapple
- With a sharp paring knife, remove the eyes by making diagonal cuts across the flesh just deep enough to lift out the section that contains the eye.
Once that is complete you can cut the pineapple down further to suit your needs. On some pineapples the core can be a bit tough so you can remove it at this stage. You can cut it into quarters; can slice it into “rings”; or cut it into cubes.
How to Store
Whole pineapple can be left at room temperature for one or two days before serving. While this process will not make the fruit any sweeter, it will help it to become softer and juicier. After two days wrap the pineapple in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for a maximum of three to five days.
Ripe pineapples should be covered in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss and stored in a refrigerator. Store the pineapples close to the door since they are best stored at a temperature around 45°F. Stored correctly will last several days in the refrigerator.
Cut pineapple should be tightly wrapped or put in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator until consumed. It will stay fresher and retain more taste and juiciness if you also place some liquid, preferably some juice from the pineapple, in the container. Cut pineapple will maintain is flavor for only a couple of days, so enjoy it quickly.
Pineapple can be frozen but this process negatively affects its flavor.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Mix diced pineapple and chili peppers for an easy to prepare salsa that’s an exceptional complement to fish such as halibut, tuna and salmon.
- Drizzle maple syrup, honey or light brown sugar on pineapple slices and broil until brown. Serve plain or with yogurt.
- Cubed pineapple tastes great in kebabs with other fruit, fish or poultry.
- Pineapple is a wonderful addition to fruit salads, especially those containing other tropical fruits such as papaya, kiwi and mango.
Want to grow a pineapple from the leftover crown? Learn how.