Sweet, lush, and highly flavorful, the pineapple has long been a valued food as well as a symbol of welcome and hospitality. Its pleasing texture and lush sweetness, combined with a trace of tartness, make it a favorite fruit among many Americans.
Pineapples probably first grew wild in parts of South America and then spread to the West Indies, where Columbus encountered them on the island of Guadaloupe during his second voyage to that region. He brought the pineapple back to Europe, and the exotic fruit created quite a stir. It is said that these same Spanish explorers introduced the custom of using carved pineapples above front doors, having seen the natives place whole pineapples or pineapple tops near the entrances to their huts as a signal of welcome.
By 1600, European explorers had carried pineapples as far as China and the Philippines, and about 200 years later, the fruit was introduced to Hawaii. However, it was not until the 1880s, when steamships made transporting the perishable fruit viable, that commercial cultivation of pineapples began in the Hawaiian Islands. Today the state continues to be a major producer of this fruit.
Like melons, pineapples have no built-in reserves of starch that convert to sugar. This is because the starch is stored in the stem of the plant rather than in the fruit itself. It is only just before the fruit ripens completely that the starch converts to sugar and enters the fruit. For this reason, growers ripen pineapples on the plant to a point where they are almost fully ripe, with a high sugar content and plenty of juice.
Once the fruit has been harvested, it won’t get any sweeter, and if too ripe, the fruit may spoil before it gets to market. After harvesting, the pineapples are shipped to market as quickly as possible, arriving within two to three days.
Pineapples provide thiamin, as well as a lot of vitamin C. Just 1 cup of pineapple chunks provides 27 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, and a cup of juice provides 50 percent. Pineapple is also rich in manganese.
For a full listing of nutrients see Pineapple in the National Nutrient Database.
Pineapple Recipe Ideas and Cooking Tips
Pineapple is delicious eaten fresh as a snack, grilled, or served with meat. But it’s important to choose a pineapple in prime condition before you bring it home from the store. Pineapple is one of the few fruits that you can’t ripen at home.How to choose a ripe pineappleMost of the
Types of pineapple
Although most Americans think of pineapple as a Hawaiian fruit, pineapples are also grown in Florida, and imported fresh or canned from Mexico, Central America, the Far East, and a number of other places.
Pineapples do not grow on trees, as many people mistakenly think. They are the fruit of a bromeliad plant, rising from the center of the plant on a single spike surrounded by sword-like leaves. Though the pineapple plant is not the only bromeliad to produce edible fruit—there are several examples, such as feijoa—it is certainly the most common.
Here are the types of pineapple most commonly found in supermarkets or specialty food stores:
Costa Rican Gold: Almost like shimmering gold, Costa Rica pineapple is scrumptiously sweet and deliciously juicy. Its very low acid content makes room for its very high sugar content. The tender, bright yellow flesh is encased in an attractive very yellow shell.
Red Spanish: Weighing roughly 2 to 5 pounds, this pineapple has pale yellow flesh and a squarish shape.
Smooth Cayenne: This cone-shaped Hawaiian pineapple is the most popular and is considered by many to be the best tasting. It has pale yellow flesh and weighs roughly 5 to 6 pounds. Small versions are sold as Baby Hawaiian Pineapples.
South African: These pineapples measure roughly 5 inches high and 3 inches wide and have golden-colored skin and a bright yellow interior. They are sweet in flavor, very juicy and tender, and have a crunchy core that can be easily eaten.
Sugar Loaf: This large pineapple has skin that is still green when ripe. It can grow up to 20 pounds, although the average size in the market is between 2 and 5 pounds. It’s also sold under the name Baby Sugar Loaf.
Published April 26, 2016