lush, tropical sweetness is reason enough to enjoy it any way you can,
but this fruit also contains vitamin C and manganese. This fruit's most
promising nutritional asset, though, may be bromelain, a natural enzyme
found in both the fruit and the stem. The
fruit probably first grew wild in parts of South America and then spread
to the Caribbean, where Columbus encountered it. By 1600, early European
explorers had carried pineapples as far as China and the Philippines.
In the 18th century pineapples were taken to the Hawaiian Islands, eventually
becoming the major fruit crop. Hawaiian pineapple producers were the
first to can the fruit.
Like melons, pineapples have no built in reserves of starch that convert
to sugar, the starch is stored in the stem of the plant rather than
in the fruit itself. Just before the fruit ripens completely, the starch
converts to sugar and enters the fruit. Once the fruit has been harvested,
it won't get any sweeter, so growers ripen pineapples on the plant to
a point where they are almost fully ripe, with a high sugar content
and plenty of juice. (If too ripe, the fruit may spoil before it gets
to market.) After harvesting, the pineapples are shipped as quickly
as possible, hopefully arriving within two to three days.
a picked pineapple will only get older but will never develop more sweetness
or juiciness, most of the traditional tricks for judging its "ripeness"
are unreliable. For example, don't bother trying to judge the fruit
by its colour: the skin of a pineapple that was picked before it was
ripe may in fact turn a lovely golden yellow, but the fruit on the inside
will be just as unsweet as it was when picked. The same goes for other
methods, thumping it to test its "soundness" or pulling a
crown leaf to see how loose it is. These will only be a guide to the
age, not to the sweetness of the fruit within.
One relatively reliable guide to a pineapple's
goodness is its fragrance (though if the fruit is cold, the aroma may
not be apparent). Sniff it at the stem end.
A large pineapple will have a greater
proportion of edible flesh to rind and core, but small and medium-sized
pineapples can still be delicious. The fruit should be firm and plump,
as well as heavy for its size, with fresh-looking green leaves. A good
pineapple should be fragrant. Avoid pineapples with bruises or soft
spots, especially at the base or those that have a sour or fermented
Although it will not increase in sweetness, a pineapple will get somewhat
softer and juicier if it is left at room temperature for a day or two
before serving. After ripening, it can be refrigerated for three to
five days, no longer, or the fruit may be damaged by the cold. Refrigerate
the pineapple in a plastic bag to help conserve its moisture content.
Cut-up pineapple, if it is stored in an airtight container, will keep
for about a week.
To peel and trim: Start by twisting or cutting off the leafy crown.
Using a large, heavy knife, halve the fruit lengthwise from bottom to
top, then cut the two halves in half again to form quarters. Slice out
the section of core from the top of each wedge shaped quarter, then
slide a knife between the flesh and rind to free the flesh. Cut the
flesh as required for your recipe.
make a serving "boat": Peel and trim as above, but leave the
leafy crown on the pineapple, cutting through it when you quarter the
pineapple lengthwise. Then, after you separate the flesh from the skin
of the pineapple quarter, replace the flesh on the rind and make crosswise
cuts to divide the fruit into bite sized pieces.
To cut into round slices: Here are two
methods for cutting round slices. It's easiest to cut off the top and
bottom of the pineapple, then cut the unpeeled fruit crosswise into
slices and pare and core each one individually. You can also peel the
whole pineapple first: Cut off the top and bottom, then stand the fruit
on a cutting board and cut downward to remove the rind in wide strips;
This will leave rows of tough brown "eyes" in the pineapple
flesh. To remove them, use a paring knife to follow the diagonal pattern
made by the eyes, cutting a V-shaped groove in a spiral pattern around
the pineapple. Then cut the pineapple crosswise into slices and cut
the core from each slice.