The Pineapple is Sometimes Called the "King of Fruits."
Pineapple
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The Pineapple is sometimes called king of the fruits. It is native to Central and South America and it was being cultivated on the island of Guadeloupe, when it was first discovered in the West Indies by Christopher Columbus in 1493 (though Magellan also is credited with discovering it growing in Brazil a few years later).  Columbus called Pineapple piñas de Indes, or “the Indians’ pinecones,” for its outer resemblance to pinecones. It gained the “apple” part of its name from its solid interior, similar to apples. Its botanical name, Ananas comosus, is from its South American Indian name, nanã, which means “excellent fruit.”  Ananas is also the French word for Pineapple.

There are lots of fun stories connected with Pineapples. Though they were sent to Europe soon after they were discovered, it took nearly 200 years for the Europeans to perfect a way to grow them. In the meantime, Pineapples were a rare and exotic item, available only to the elite. They were placed on pedestals and used as centerpieces on the finest tables in Europe. They were so coveted they were rented as centerpieces to other houses for their dinner parties, before eventually being sold to more affluent clients and eaten. They were so celebrated that King Charles II had a formal portrait painted in which he is being presented not gold, not the keys to a city, but with a Pineapple. 

Legend has it when Louis XIV was first given a Pineapple, he was so excited to try it that he bit into it, peel and all, and cut his lip on the sharp skin, which caused him to immediately ban all Pineapples in France. Louis XV, on the other hand, loved them so much he grew them in the greenhouse at Versailles.

Pineapples represent both protection and hospitality. In the West Indies, Indians planted them as barriers around villages (their spiky leaves and skin helped keep intruders at bay).  Interestingly, to those same Indians, they also represent abundance and hospitality.  The Spanish adopted the latter definition, that a Pineapple is a symbol of welcome. They began incorporating the image of Pineapples into their furniture and other woodwork, and by the 18th century, the Pineapple motif was all the rage. There was even a building constructed in Scotland during this time called the Dunmore Pineapple which features a giant cupola in the shape of a Pineapple.

In the American Colonies, using Pineapples as a welcome sign began with sailors returning from long voyages. They would place a Pineapple by their front door to signal they were home safe and sound, and ready to share tales of their adventures on the high seas.  To this day in the American South, you will find many homes with a carved wooden or brass or metal Pineapple image posted at the front door, the equivalent of a welcome mat.

Remember how Christopher Columbus discovered Pineapples in the Caribbean? Well, that also means, despite our preconceptions, that Pineapples are not native to Hawaii. Pineapples were first brought to Hawaii by Captain James Cook in 1778. It took a century for them to take root in the islands. But once James Drummond Dole began canning them in 1903, making them accessible to the rest of the world, the Pineapple crop began to flourish. By 1927, the Pineapple ranked as the number one industry in Hawaii. Today, it is the third most canned fruit in the world.

Season

Pineapple varieties fall into 2 peak season categories:

  • Hawaiian Pineapples- April-May
  • Caribbean Pineapples- December-Febuary and August-September
Availability

Pineapples are available all year long.

Cultivation

A Pineapple is a bromeliad, which is a large family of tropical flowering plants. The Pineapple is far and away and the most commercially valuable bromeliad, and so prominent that the entire family (Bromeliaceae) is commonly called the pineapple family.  It is a biennial plant, meaning it usually only lives for two years, and it doesn’t produce fruit until its second year. The fruit itself is actually a large collection of swollen berries on a stalk. A plant grows three or four Pineapples at once, and they grow at the end of very long shoots.

Production

Varieties

The two most common varieties of Pineapple are Red Spanish Pineapple and Smooth Cayenne Pineapple.  A third variety of Pineapple is called a Sugar Loaf Pineapple, or Kona Sugarloaf. The final type of Pineapple that we might see at market is called the Natal Queen Pineapple. There are a few other varieties, but these are the types most available to us.

Purchasing

When buying Pineapples, look for ones that are fully ripe. Unripe Pineapples can be extremely dangerous causing excessive diarrhea and severe vomiting.

The good news is that, unlike a lot of other fruits and vegetables, a Pineapple doesn’t further ripen after picking. It develops its full concentration of Sugars during its last few days of growth and can’t add to those sugars after being separated from its mother plant.  Pineapples that are picked ripe often have a label that says, “Jet Fresh,” which means the fruit was picked ripe and flown to its destination.

The best way to tell if a Pineapple is ripe is to smell it. It should give off a good strong Pineapple aroma, but not one that seems at all fermented. If it smells fermented it means that it’s beginning to spoil.  The top sprout of leaves should be green with no browning on them.  The skin of the Pineapple should give slightly, but there should be no big soft spots or dark coloration.  Also, check the top leaves for any signs of mold.  In this case, smaller doesn’t mean better.  You’ll just have more Pineapple yield for all your peeling if you buy a bigger one.

Smooth Cayenne Pineapples are picked ripe (they are also more expensive than Red Spanish ones). Dole and Del Monte grow and market Smooth Cayenne Pineapples exclusively, so one way to insure you’re getting Smooth Cayennes is to simply buy one of those two brands.

Because Pineapples are 87% water, they are a good candidate for Waxing to help them retain moisture. If you are  dead set against Waxed Fruit, you should check with your grocer about whether or not the particular Pineapple (s) you are considering were Waxed  and handle them accordingly. 

Storage

Once you have the Pineapple home, store it at room temperature.  If it was very firm when you bought it, allow it to soften for a day or two before cutting it (though the interior flesh won’t get any sweeter).  The Pineapple meat itself will last refrigerated and covered for two to three days in a covered container or plastic bag. Cut Pineapple  left out, uncovered, will dry out very quickly.

Culinary Uses

Peeling and Trimming Pineapple (it’s easier than it appears) releases the refreshing fruit and the tangy, sweet/tart flavor. Pineapple pairs well with PorkSeafood and Poultry, and is widely used in Fruit SaladsSauces, and many Desserts.

A cooking note: Raw Pineapples can’t be used in dishes with gelatin, as an enzyme in it interacts with the gelatin and keeps it from solidifying.  However, cooking the Pineapple will neutralize the enzyme so that it can be used.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2 oz of Pineapple per person.

Pairings

Cashews, Macadamia NutsPistachios, Walnuts, Allspice, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Cloves, Curry, Fennel Seeds, Lemongrass, Mint, Black Pepper, Salt, Rosemary, Saffron, Sugar, Star Anise, Vanilla, Avocadoes, Peppers, Cilantro, Ginger, Onions, Shallots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apricots, Bananas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Coconut, Coconut Milk, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Lemons, Limes, Mangoes, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Pomegranate, Raspberries, Strawberries, Chicken, Crab, Lobster, Fish, Meat, Pork, Poultry, Scallops, Butter, Cheese, Cream, Ice Cream, Yogurt, Brandy, Caramel, Chocolate, Cognac, Honey, Maple Syrup, Olive Oil, Rice, Vinegars, Wine, Marinades, SaladsSauces

Substitutes

Mango, Papaya

Nutritional Value

Nutritional Value USDA
PINEAPPLE,RAW,ALL VAR
Amount Per 100g
Calories 50
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 1mg
2%
Potassium 109mg
4%
Total Carbohydrate 13g
4%
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 9g
Protein 0g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Pineapple is full of Dietary FiberVitamin C and is a good source of Manganese (important for bone and nerve health). It also contains B-complex vitamins like folates, thiamin, pyridoxine and riboflavin and other minerals like Potassium and Copper, making it helpful in fighting arthritis and cancer and in preventing blood clots.  Perhaps most important nutrition-wise, Pineapple contains bromelin, an enzyme that aids digestion by breaking down proteins.  One cup of Pineapple contains about 74 calories.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes