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Know Your Fruits and Veggies™ Pineapple
By Dawn Swidorski, Public Outreach Director
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.
Pineapple 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 of pineapple 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 the pineapple is still being grown today.The fruit was cultivated successfully in European hothouses, beginning in 1720.
The pineapple was introduced to Hawaii in 1813; exports of canned pineapples began in 1892. Large scale pineapple 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 a pineapple 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 pineapples 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.
Pineapples 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 pineapple varieties are still green when ripe so the true test for ripeness in all pineapples, especially green ones, is to look at the bottom of the fruit. A yellow color breaking through the bottom indicates that sugar has developed in the pineapple and it is ready to eat.
Ripe pineapples should give off a good, fresh tropical smell, so avoid pineapples 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 fresh ripe pineapple is worth the effort.
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 the pineapple into quarters; you can slice it into “rings”; or cut it into cubes.
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. Pineapples 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:
How to Grow a Pineapple
The pineapple is another one of those fruits that gives us a special bonus – a plant that in time, and with patience, may also bear fruit.
Any pineapple you are likely to select for eating will also be suitable for planting.
The part of the pineapple that you plant is the top or the crown (where the leaves are). There are two methods for freeing the crown for planting.
Pineapples are a tropical plant and frost or freezing temperatures will kill it. If you live in a colder climate, your pineapple may need to be a house plant or divide its time between your house and your porch or garden.
Pineapples need at least 6 hours of bright light each day and prefers a temperature of 65 - 75 degrees F (minimum of 60 degrees). If the room is warm enough for you to be comfortable, the pineapple will be at the right temperature.
With some patience your pineapple could bear fruit in about 2 – 3 years. In order to support a pineapple the size you purchase in the store the plant would be 5 – 6 feet in diameter so your home borne fruit will be much smaller.
Tips for Bearing Fruit
Pineapple will be more likely to bear fruit if they are allowed to go outside during summer months.
Placing the plant (in its pot) on its side between watering may stimulate blooming.
Placing the crown in a plastic bag may stimulate blooming.
Placing a cut apple inside the plastic bag around the crown may also stimulate blooming.
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