The pineapple is a tropical fruit with a very familiar shape and sweet taste. While it's often associated with Hawaii, it is not native to the islands, though it is now one of their major crops. This delicious tropical fruit adds sweetness to foods and famous cocktails like the piña colada. It's also essential in dessert recipes like the classic pineapple upside-down cake. Preparing fresh pineapple is easy if you know how to cut it, and it's sure to make your favorite recipes a little brighter.
What Are Pineapples?
Ananas comosus is the botanical name of the fruit known as the pineapple. Native to South America, it was named for its resemblance to a pine cone. Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing attention to the fruit when he found it on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493. Today, Hawaii produces only 10 percent of the world's pineapple crops. Other countries contributing to the pineapple industry include Mexico, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Thailand, Costa Rica, and China.
The pineapple plant is low-growing with spiky leaves protruding from the ground. The leaves are the same shape as the greenery on the top of the fruit, which grows on a central stem from the plant. It takes about two years for the plant to produce a single pineapple fruit with its bright yellow, fibrous flesh and skin covered with vibrant "eyes." Pineapple is common in supermarkets, easy to cut up, and, considering how much fruit you get, relatively inexpensive.
How to Cook With Pineapple
Pineapple is one of the most versatile fruits. It's used in desserts, salads, savory dishes, and beverages. It's also found in a variety of foods throughout the world, most prominently in American, Asian, and Caribbean cuisines. While some recipes call for pieces of pineapple, others rely on the juice. You can buy prepared versions of either, though there's something special about the taste of fresh pineapple.
When preparing a whole pineapple, the leafy crown at the top and a thin slice at the bottom are cut off first. Most often, the pineapple is then cut in halves or quarters lengthwise and into smaller wedges before cutting it up further. Pineapple can also be cut into round slices. This does make it more difficult to remove the hard inner core and outer skin, which are discarded. Cutting pineapple on a plate lets you capture the juice as well. A fun option for pineapple dishes is to cut a pineapple boat, which is an eye-catching serving dish.
What Does It Taste Like?
Pineapple has a distinctly bright and vibrant tropical fruit taste that is sweet and tart. There's more sugar in the base of the fruit, so pieces from that part will be sweeter and more tender.
You will find many recipes that recommend canned pineapple, whether its chunks, crushed, or sliced. However, fresh pineapple can be used instead, and there are some wonderful pineapple recipes worth cooking.
Where to Buy Pineapple
Pineapple is available year-round in most grocery stores, but it's best during the peak season of March through July. This fruit is cut from the plant when it's ripe, so it's ready to eat when you bring it home. Pineapple typically ranges from 2 to 6 pounds. It's sold for a few dollars as individual fruits, though the price will vary with the season. Some stores will even peel and core a pineapple for you, and many offer freshly cubed pineapple.
Selecting pineapple is pretty easy. Look for leaves that are fresh and green with a compact crown. The fruit should feel heavy and be plump, with no signs of mold or soft spots. Examine the eyes as well. These should be bright and shiny, not wrinkly and dark.
It may look tough from the outside, but pineapple will bruise easily. Store uncut pineapple at room temperature for no more than two days, or it will become less sweet and more acidic. Refrigerating it in perforated plastic can extend that to seven days. For the best flavor, let it come to room temperature before eating or cooking. Cut pineapple should be covered in juice. It can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen up to six months in an airtight container.
The pineapple most often found in U.S. markets and grown in Hawaii falls into the class Smooth Cayenne. This juicy, semi-tart pineapple is among the largest, often growing between 4 and 10 pounds. There are three other classes of pineapple cultivars. The Abacaxi pineapples are sweet and delicious, weighing between 2 and 11 pounds. Red Spanish pineapples are most often grown in the Caribbean, and Queen pineapples are common in Australia and South Africa.