Pineapples 101: The Perfect Balance of Sweet and Tart

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There’s no quicker way to transport yourself to a warm tropical place than to close your eyes and take a bite of fresh golden pineapple. Readily available almost year round, pineapples haven’t always been so easily accessible, however. Their limited growing conditions in tropical climates and short shelf life led early colonists and Europeans to consider fresh pineapple a luxury and even a status symbol. Sea captains would leave a pineapple outside their door to let visitors know they were welcome. This is what progressed to the pineapple decorations we see on the inside and outside of homes—they are a sign of hospitality and wealth. It’s no wonder people were enamored by pineapples—their balance of sweet and tart flavor is unparalleled. To boot, they’re packed with vitamin C and manganese, boosting the nutritional value of just about any dish, sweet or savory.

Identification

Pineapples are large oval cylinders, usually with a scaly rind of yellow, brown, or green (depending on the variety) and spiky blue-green leaves on the crown. The Smooth Cayenne is the most common variety shipped to the US, and has a greenish-yellow rind. The flesh is a pale to deep yellow color.

Other varieties you may find at markets include the Red Spanish, the Sugar Loaf, and the Golden Supreme.

Taste

The distinctive tropical flavor of pineapple balances sweet and tart nicely. If you want a sweeter bite, choose chunks from the base of the fruit, which has a higher sugar content.

Availability

You’ll find pineapple readily available in major supermarkets. Frozen and canned pineapple is also available year round.

Season

Pineapple is available all year long in the US. The peak season varies depending on where it is imported from. Hawaiian pineapples peak between March and July, and Caribbean pineapples peak between December and February as well as August and September. In Europe, pineapples are most readily available from September to April.

Selection

Keep in mind that pineapple stops ripening as the moment it’s picked, so be prepared to eat the fruit within a few days of purchase. You should detect a sweet smell from the stem end of the fruit; also, it should feel heavy for its size and the body should be firm. To ensure your pineapple is fresh, take a look at the leaves. Opt for fresh-looking green leaves as opposed to shriveled or browning leaves.

Avoid pineapple with soft spots or a sour or musty smell, as that signifies rotting.

Organic Benefits

When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic produce, it’s helpful to know which fruits and vegetables are most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen,” and the 15 least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen”. These lists help identify the produce that is most—and least—dramatically affected by pesticides. 

Pineapple is ranked at #3 on the Clean Fifteen list so choosing conventionally grown pineapple is just fine!

Storage

Whole pineapple keeps well at room temperature for up to two days. If you are not using it within two days, store it in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for up to five days.

Cut pineapple should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where it stays fresh for up to a week. Fresh pineapple can be frozen once cut, but it will lose some of its flavor.

Canned pineapple can be safely kept in a pantry for about a year. Watch the expiration date.

Preparation

When preparing a fresh, whole pineapple, use a broad, sharp knife to cut the top inch of the crown and the bottom inch of the base. Then, setting the base on your cutting board, make vertical slices along the sides to remove the hard exterior rind and “eyes” (dark spots). Some people do this with the whole fruit; others find it easier to place the pineapple lengthwise on the board, cut it into thirds, and then remove the rind.

Finally, remove the cylindrical, fibrous core from the center of the soft flesh of the pineapple. The core is too tough to eat out of hand, but it can be juiced, blended into a smoothie, or even finely diced and used as a garnish.

Nutrition Summary

Vitamin C

This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk.

Manganese

The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.

Copper

A mineral that plays a role in producing collagen and keeping the immune system in proper working order, copper is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts. Copper may also fight against free radicals, helping to delay the aging process. Energy production is also one of the many benefits of this important mineral.

B1 (Thiamine)

Thiamine, or vitamin B1, plays an active role in metabolizing carbohydrates into a useable form of energy. B1 also contributes toward proper nerve function and acts as a coenzyme to convert ketones into other coenzymes necessary for cell metabolism.

B6 (Pyridoxine)

Amino acids and lipids are the main nutrients metabolized by vitamin B6, helping to promote proper energy levels throughout the body. It is also an important aspect of the formation of hemoglobin and neurotransmitters, protecting both the cardiovascular system and brain.

Health Benefits & Medical Claims

If you are looking to boost your immune system and are tired of reaching for the orange juice, try a serving of pineapple. Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, an important vitamin for skin, bone, and immune health. In fact, just one cup of fresh pineapple contains 105 percent of your daily vitamin C need. Sweet, tangy, and low in calories (a one-cup serving only has 83 calories), this snack also boasts 99 percent of your daily value of manganese. Since manganese is found mostly in whole grains and leafy greens, pineapple is a sweet alternative way to get your daily need of this trace mineral essential for digestion, metabolism, brain and nerve function, and several other important body regulations.

Little Known Facts

1. The Caribbean’s first called pineapples anana, which means excellent fruit. The term “pineapple” originated from the Spanish word for pine cone, piña, because of the fruit’s exterior, and European explorers later added “apple” to the name because of the sweetness of the flesh.

2. The first pineapples were grown in South America. But it was in the Caribbean that European explorers first discovered them. These explorers tried growing pineapple in their home countries but realized they needed a tropical climate. So they started growing them in their Southeast Asian colonies, where they are still produced today.

3. The bottom section of the pineapple contains the sweetest fruit—and the most sugar.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Yoffie Life disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.