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© Denzil Green

Pineapple on your pizza, or not? Even those of our grandmothers who have overcome their suspicions of pizza in general, often draw a line here: for them, pineapple belongs at the bottom of cakes and on top of squares.

Pineapples don't actually come from trees -- they come from "herb" plants that grow up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) tall and spread out about 4 feet (1.2 metres.) For those who haven't seen one that didn't come in a can (canned pineapple is actually better for some things: see Cooking Tips below), the pineapple fruit has a rough skin that is often referred to as its "shell", marked with a criss-cross diamond pattern, and a crown of leaves at the stem end on top. The fruit inside is very sweet.

Pineapple is not a member of the citrus fruit family. Grocery stores often place it in citrus fruit sections, however.

If you live somewhere warm or have a big hothouse, you can grow your own pineapple bush -- remove the crown from the pineapple fruit, dry it for a few days, then plant it in the ground. In about two years, the plant will start to bear fruit.

A good pineapple at the store or stall will have a bright, leafy crown (don't worry if the leaves are brown on a tip or two.) You should be able to pluck one of the leaves from it without much difficulty. The colour of the fruit's shell should be a golden colour (or reddish, if the pineapple is a Red Spanish one) tinged with green. If it's all green, it was picked too early. Pineapples stop ripening once they're picked; they will not ripen any further. The shell colour may turn more brown or more golden, but the actual sugar content of the fruit will not increase. [1]

Colour alone, though, isn't enough indication on its own that the fruit is ripe. Thump it -- it should sound hollow. Then sniff the crown end of it -- if it doesn't have the sweet smell of pineapple, then look for another one, or bring that one home and plan to let it set for a day or two on the kitchen counter. Though it won't ripen any further in terms of taste and sweetness, it will get juicier and develop a fragrance. If the pineapple smells fermented, then it's too old; put it back on the shelf and try another one. If a pineapple is overripe, it will have a "beery" smell.

Here are the five main varieties of pineapple, listed by size in descending order:

Smooth Cayenne
Weighs up to 6 pounds (2.5 kg); yellow or pale yellow inside; high in sugar and acid. Grown in Hawaii, type most often found in North American grocery stores.
Kona Sugarloaf
Weighs up to 5 pounds (2 kg) ; white flesh inside, quite sweet; cylindrical.
Weighs 2 to 4 pounds (1 to 2 kg) ; fruit inside is either white or pale yellow.
Red Spanish
Weighs 2 to 4 pounds (1 to 2 kg); reddish shell, yellow fruit inside, more square shaped. As the fruit ripens, the reddish colour of the rind fades from red to pink. Discovered growing wild amongst coffee plants in Ethiopia. Aka Spanish Red.
Natal Queen
Weighs up to 2 pounds (1 kg); yellow inside, medium sweetness, milder taste.

Cooking Tips

Pull the crown of leaves off by giving it a good twist or two (it comes off very easily from ripe pineapples). With a big knife, cut the pineapple into half lengthwise, then cut each half into half again to make quarters. With a paring knife, scoop out the core and cut the ends off. You can eat the fruit as is from the shell, or if you want to go further and chunk it, use the paring knife to slice the shell off of the fruit -- just run it along under where the shell meets the fruit, then chop into chunks.

If you want pineapple slices, remove the crown, then use a paring knife or a larger serrated knife to cut off the shell all around. Trim off any woody eyes still remaining on the surface of the fruit. Use a big knife to trim the end off, then cut the fruit into slices.

Pineapple slices and wedges are nice grilled with a bit of brown sugar on them.

Pineapples contain a protease enzyme that breaks down proteins, which gelatin contains, so if you are planning to use fresh pineapple in a jellied recipe or in a marinade, the fruit must be boiled first to destroy the enzyme or your jellied salad will end up jellied mush. It's best instead to use tinned pineapple for this, as the heat treatment during the canning process has already destroyed the enzyme.

Pineapple juice is sometimes used as a substitute for booze in Christmas Cakes. The cakes end up very flavourful.


Canned Pineapple

Canned Pineapple
© Denzil Green

In theory, there's no real reason to substitute for pineapple, as it is so readily available and the tinned pineapple is very inexpensive and stores well.

Some, however, dislike the taste of pineapple, or have an allergic reaction to it. And sometimes, you get caught cooking in the middle of bad weather and just don't want to make a trek out to the store for it.

For pineapple juice, you can try substituting : sweetened grapefruit juice, orange juice on its own, orange juice with some lemon or apple juice, orange juice with some guava juice or rum (to maintain an "island" flavour), etc.

For crushed pineapple, you can try chopped, canned peaches with some orange or lemon juice stirred in to give them a citrus zing. Orange pieces are sometimes suggested, but they can end up too stringy in what you are making.

If you can find a pineapple Flavoring syrup, essence or oil that you are not allergic to, you can add some of that to either of the above substitutes.

There are recipes for "Crushed Pineapple Substitute" based on shredded zucchini, but they all seem to call for large amounts of pineapple juice which won't help allergy sufferers.

Try instead simmering some coarsely-grated or chopped zucchini in a mixture of white sugar, orange juice and a small amount of lemon juice. Grate up as much zucchini as you think you need, and put in a pot. For the simmering liquid, use a ratio of about 1 cup (8 oz / 250 ml) orange juice, 2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice, 3/4 cup (6 oz / 170g) white sugar. (Optional: add a few drops of pineapple Flavouring if you can find it, and don't react to it.) Make up enough liquid to cover the grated zucchini in your pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. If the mixture starts to go dry, tip in a bit more lemon juice. Remove from heat and let cool. Use in recipe in same quantity as the crushed pineapple was called for. Leftover can be frozen.


Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and the enzyme Bromelain (which is though to be an anti-inflammatory.)

Some people have an allergy, known as Oral Allergy Syndrome, to fruits such as pineapple, kiwi, banana, some citrus fruit, etc.


1 medium pineapple = 2 pounds (900g) = 3 cups chunked

1 x 8 oz (250 ml) can of chunked or crushed pineapple = 3/4 cup (6 oz / 170g) of fruit, 1/4 (2 oz / 4 tablespoons) cup of juice
1 x 20 oz (600 ml) can of chunked or crushed pineapple = 2 cups (16 oz / 450g) of fruit, 1/2 cup (4 oz / 125 ml) of juice
1 cup chunked pineapple, drained = 8 oz (225g) of fruit
1 x 29 oz (850 ml) can chunked or crushed pineapple = 3 3/4 cups
1 x 20 oz (600 ml) can of sliced pineapple =10 slices
1 x 8 (250 ml) oz can of sliced pineapple = 4 slices
1/2 cup of canned, drained pineapple pieces or chunks = 3 1/2 oz = 100g
2 slices of canned, drained pineapple = 2 oz = 50g
1/2 cup fresh, peeled and cored pineapple, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces = 2 1/2 oz = 70g

Storage Hints

If the pineapple you bought has no real pineapple aroma, allow it to sit on the kitchen counter for a day or two until the smell increases. After that, you can store it at room temperature for several days. But if you refrigerate the pineapple, you need to put them in a closed plastic bag, as the dryness in a refrigerator will suck the life out of one very quickly (leave the leaves sticking out of the bag.) Will keep in refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

Don't wrap cut pineapple in tin foil or store it in anything metallic owing to its high acidity. Store leftover fresh pineapple or opened tinned pineapple in a plastic container in the refrigerator; use within 4 days. You can also freeze leftover pineapple; it will be mooshy when you thaw it so use it where appearance won't be a concern -- blender drinks, in a cake or muffins, etc.

Bruised or damaged portions of a pineapple can ruin the entire pineapple, so cut them off and discard, and refrigerate the rest of the pineapple.

Some people prefer to store fresh, whole pineapples upside down, but the jury is out on whether the effectiveness of that practice is an urban myth or not. [2] Some theorize that such storage causes the juice to flow from top to bottom; others, that the bottom is simply prone to rotting unless turned upside down.

You can freeze fresh pineapple. Peel and chunk it. Squeeze the peel into a cup or over a plate to get the juice out. Pack the fruit in a freezer container or bag, cover with the juice, and freeze. Use another juice if you haven't got enough juice or have already chucked the pineapple peel into the compost.

Tinned pineapple can be kept unopened on your shelf for up to a year. Dole is one of the few manufacturers around who actually bothers to put best before dates on their tins, which makes safe storage really easy. Whenever you open a tin of pineapple, be aware that it is a highly acidic fruit and check the inside of the tin to make sure there are no corrosion marks. If there are, pitch it all (or return to store.)

Once opened, don't throw the juice away: store any leftover fruit in the fridge for up to a week covered with the juice, or use the juice for something else -- you can freeze the juice in a small plastic container and work it later into a cake, muffin or bread recipe, swapping out some other liquid such as water for the tastier pineapple juice.

History Notes

Dried Pineapple

Dried Pineapple
© Denzil Green

It's thought that pineapples are native to Paraguay and southern Brazil. Pineapple was cultivated further and further north over the years, until by 1493, when Columbus arrived on his second trip to the Americas, it was being grown in Central America. Columbus encountered it on Guadeloupe island.

He brought pineapples back to Europe, where they were a hit. But it wasn't until the late 1600s that Europeans managed to get them to grow in hothouses. So in the meantime, these sweet, exotic fruit were the stuff of wonder and delight in the 1500s and 1600s. The pineapple forms were reproduced in architecture everywhere, and became familiar on the tops of gate posts, etc. If you've ever wandered through renaissance Florence, you will see the pineapple motif all over the place. In the early 1600s, King Charles II was even painted receiving a pineapple as a gift -- clearly a gift fit for a King.

Spanish sailors working in the New World had it easier. They could get fresh pineapple for free, and did. They noticed that eating pineapple warded off scurvy (though they didn't know that it was the vitamin C in the fruit that did the trick), so they carried pineapple with them on their journeys. But tragedies for them -- shipwrecks and bad storms washing things overboard -- were a future blessing for others, as pineapples from their ships washed ashore and established themselves on Caribbean Islands.

Soon, the Caribbean Islands were exporting pineapples to Europe, and especially, up to America. Fresh, whole pineapples were so highly desired by fashionable colonial hostesses in Boston and New York for display on their tables that often times they were only able to rent them for the day. Pineapples appeared everywhere in Colonial decoration to symbolize sophisticated, no-expense spared hospitality.

In 1885 (some sources say 13 June 1884), a Brit named John Kidwell imported a Cayenne Pineapple from Madeira to Hawaii, began growing it there, and within a few years he had successfully canned pineapple for export to the United States. It wasn't a commercial success, though, as Hawaii was still independent then and its produce was subject to high import tariffs in the US, so he folded his business by 1898. That same year, however, Hawaii was annexed to the United States, removing the tariffs. In that year, two men came to Hawaii with the pineapple business in mind: Alfred W. Eames, whose company is today known as Del Monte, and James Drummond Dole, whose company is now Dole. (James's cousin, Sanford B. Dole, would become president in 1894 of the brief Hawaiian Republic).

Pineapple was first canned for commercial sale in 1903, by James Dole in Wahiawa, Hawaii. Henry G. Ginaca (1876 - 1918) was hired in 1911 by James Dole to come up with a machine that would enable more efficient canning of pineapple. At the time, pineapples were processed by a combination of hand and manual coring machines, yielding a production rate of about 10 to 15 pineapples being processed per minute. The machine that Ginaca came up with in 1911 raised that rate to 50 per minute, with far less wastage of juice and far less accidentally crushed fruit. The machine wasn't fully put into production, though, until 1919, during which time refinements were tested. The 1919 model allowed 65 pineapples per minute. By the 1990s, the machines in use could process between 75 and 100 pineapples per minute. They are still all called "Ginaca" machines, though, in honour of their inventor.

By the 1990s, however, pineapple growing started to leave Hawaii, as producers found cheaper places in the world to grow or source their pineapples.

In 1992, the Dole company shuttered their pineapple plantation on Lanai island; James Dole had purchased the entire island in 1922 for growing pineapples.

In 2008, Del Monte stopped growing its pineapples in Hawaii, saying that it had become cheaper to grow its pineapples in other parts of the world. Their plantation was at Kunia on Oahu Island. Del Monte, headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, had started growing pineapples there in 1916, under the company name of California Packing Corporation. [3]

In 2009, Maui Land & pineapple Company stopped growing pineapples in Hawaii. Their plantation was on Maui island, where they had been since the company was founded as the Maui Pineapple Co. in 1912. [4]

As of 2010, Dole remains the sole producer of pineapple in Hawaii. It has 2,700 acres in Wahiawa on Oahu Island. The company was founded in Wahiawa in 1851.

Literature & Lore

"What a useful fruit pineapple is in our dietary! And it seems to me it is daily becoming more popular." -- Martha Lee. Home Economics Department column. Oakland Tribune Magazine. Oakland, California. Tuesday, 31 January 1928. page 30.)

"The Natal and Eleuthera pineapples were brought to this country from the tropics a few short years ago and are quite a different fruit from the usual pineapples around the stores. Not so different in appearance; different in the eating. These never bite the tongue, but are sweet and mellow. No need to add sugar. The entire fruit is edible, even the core. Juice runs when the knife cuts in." -- Paddleford, Clementine (1898 - 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. March 1950.

Language Notes

South American Indians called it "anana", from which the French word today for pineapple, "ananas."

Columbus and his crew drew on the pineapple's resemblance to pine cones when they called it "Pine of the Indies". The English later tacked "apple" onto pine, to give it associations with an already loved fruit.


[1] "Once pineapples are harvested they do not continue to increase the sugar content internally but the shell color will turn more yellow or golden." Pineapple FAQ. Retrieved Dec 2014 from https://hawaiiancrown.com/faq.php.

[2] "Some people feel that it helps to stand a pineapple upside down in the refrigerator for several hours so that the sweet juices at the base run through the fruit, a practice hard to evaluate because it is impossible to know how the same fruit would be had that not been done." Sheraton, Mimi. A guide to choosing a ripe pineapple. New York: New York Times. 21 April 1982. Accessed December 2014 at http://www.nytimes.com/1982/04/21/garden/a-guide-to-choosing-a-ripe-pineapple.html

[3] Song, Jaymes. Del Monte to Stop Hawaii Pineapple Growing. Associated Press. 2006.

[4] Paiva, Derek. End of an era: Maui Land & Pineapple closing its pineapple operations. Honolulu, Hawaii: Hawaii Magazine. 4 November 2009.

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Also called:

Ananas comosus (Scientific Name); Ananas (French); Ananas (German); Ananas (Italian); Piña (Spanish); Abacaxi, Anana (Portuguese); Anaasi Pazham (Indian)


Oulton, Randal. "Pineapples." CooksInfo.com. Published 01 September 2002; revised 08 December 2014. Web. Accessed 03/19/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/pineapples>.

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