Indigenous to South America, little was known about the pineapple until it was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 on the island of Guadalupe and brought back to Europe. Pineapples are perishable so adequate methods of transport were slow to develop. In the 18th century pineapples were successfully cultivated in Hawaii, the only U.S. state where pineapples are still grown. Costa Rica and the Philippines are the largest exporters. Pineapples are at their best – sweetest and juiciest – right now in early spring until June. The best way to choose a good pineapple is to sniff it. A ripe pineapple will smell sweet and have a floral fragrance. If it smells fermented it is past its prime. The pineapple stops ripening when it is picked so choose one that is ripe when you buy it. In addition, look for a pineapple that is heavy for its size. It should have no soft spots, bruises or darkened ‘eyes’. Good, ripe pineapple will differ in color depending on where it was grown. Ripe pineapples can be green, yellow or golden brown and all is delicious.
Pineapples can be stored for up to three days on your kitchen counter or up to five days in the fridge. If you have cut it up, it will last for up to four days stored in an airtight container. Cut pineapple can be frozen for up to six months.
To cut and peel a pineapple start by removing the crown (top) and the bottom with a knife. Place it base side down and carefully shave off the skin and carve out any remaining ‘eyes’ left in the flesh with the tip of your knife. Now cut the flesh into whatever size you need. The sweetest flesh will be the outermost flesh, so slice the skin off as thinly as possible. If you live in a tropical area, clean, dry and plant the crown you remove from your pineapple in soil and a new plant will grow.
Raw pineapple is a nutritious fruit. One cup of raw pineapple provides 76% daily value of manganese and 131% daily value of vitamin C. It contains a high level of an enzyme called Bromelain, which is an effective anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant and digestive aid. One cup of pineapple has 70-85 calories.
Ways to eat and cook pineapple:
- It is delicious raw by itself or in a fruit salad.
- Because of Bromelain, pineapple is good for tenderizing meat.
- It can be grilled and paired with many types of meat, particularly pork products.
- It is delicious in an Asian stir-fry.
- Pineapple makes a great salsa.
- Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is delicious! Paula Deen makes a yummy one.
- Pineapple is delicious in curry dishes.
Here are many pineapple recipes to browse.
Historical note: In Guadalupe, a fresh pineapple at the edge of a village was the symbol of welcome to outsiders. Ship’s captains carried this tradition home to New England. They would put a fresh pineapple atop their front doors to announce their return from a voyage as a welcome to friends. Ginny’s first house had a pineapple carved over the front door.