Pineapple, Ananas comosus, is a tropical, herbaceous perennial and is the leading edible member of the Bromeliaceae family of plants which include many types of bromeliads. Unlike most other bromeliads, which are epiphytes and many are strikingly ornamental pineapples love sunlight.
The pineapple plant has a tight rosette of long green stiff leaves with spiky tips for protection.
During the seasonal bloom at 12-18 months of age, fruits start to grow from a central leader which puts forth an inflorescence of many small purple or red flowers. This composite of flowers each form into what are referred to as fruitlets, which growtogether to form a cone shaped, compound, juicy fruit. As the stem continues to grow it produces at its apex a tuft of stiff, short leaves. This will fully develop into the crown or top of the pineapple. Hummingbirds are the principle pollinators of pineapple, which is why the importing of hummingbirds to Hawaii is forbidden. Pineapple that is not pollinated has no seeds and is obviously more desirable.
Propagation of pineapple is by new vegetative growth consisting of slips that arise from the peduncle just below the fruit, suckers that originate at the base of the plant and the crown of top of the fruit.
The tough waxy rind of Kauaʻi Sugarloaf is softer than most varieties and the fleshy fruit is less fiberous as well. Kauaʻi Sugarloaf has a creamy white flesh. Most pineapple has yellow flesh and somewhat fibrous. The core of Kauaʻi Sugarloaf is completely edible, and is not woody or stringy as is the case in other varieties of pineapple.
Using color as a guide for determining ripeness for your standard yellow or gold pineapple would be considerably different than determining ripeness for Kauaʻi Sugarloaf White Pineapple. A golden yellow color on a yellow fleshed pineapple is usually a good thing but a golden yellow color on a Kauaʻi Sugarloaf White Pineapple would be clear indication of an overripe Sugarloaf Pineapple that is already past its prime and possibly even beginning to ferment.
A pineapple will not ripen any more post harvest. Some fruits ripen off of the tree as the sugars begin to concentrate but pineapple is not one of these fruits. The flavor of the pineapple can change post harvest, but it will not ripen more.
A fully ripe pineapple picked at its peak is too fragile to be shipped, hence buy from local farmers. Know your farmer. Ask questions.
Two indicators of a good pineapple are ripeness and deterioration.
The perfectly ripe Kauaʻi Sugarloaf Pineapple will be mostly a rich green color with yellow dots in the center of the eyes. The eyes should be fully developed and look swollen, not flat, with a yellow center. At the very least, the yellow dots in the center of the eyes should be evident around the base of the fruit.
At a glance, the flesh of Kauaʻi Sugarloaf is rich green and the outside flesh will feel much harder than other pineapple, even though the inside of Sugarloaf is softer, it has been described as creamy with no strings and with an edible core.
A pineapple that is heavy for its size in comparison to other pineapples the same size will be sweeter. Sugar weighs more than water, hence a really sweet fully ripened pineapple is heavier than a unripe pineapple of the same size.
Kauaʻi Sugarloaf is much sweeter and hence it will feel heavy for its size.
Sugarloaf Pineapple is the lowest acid, sweetest, most delicious and fullest flavored pineapple.
The ability to pull a leaf from the crown, the top of the pineapple, as an indication of ripeness is complete myth, despite the enduring popularity of this falsehood.
A bright yellow-gold color, that at the very least should be present on the eyes around the base of the fruit, should be used as the first indicator of a ripe pineapple. The further up the yellow color goes is also an indicator of ripeness.
A dull color is an indication of old and or poor quality fruit.
Leaves should be nice and firm, not dry. Avoid pineapple with brown or withering leaves, it is not fresh.
Next indicator should be a pleasant mild pineapple aroma at the base of the fruit although this is more true of pineapple that has been stored for a few days.
Smell and appearance should be used in combination when selecting pineapples since even pineapples that are old or of poor quality will smell ripe.
A pineapple that is heavy for its size in comparison to other pineapples the same size will be sweeter. Sugar weighs more than water, hence a really sweet fully ripened pineapple is heavier than an unripe pineapple of the same size.
Deterioration is marked by wrinkled skin, and flesh that has a cushiony softness.
Pineapple needs full sun and well drained soil. Twist the leafy top off the pineapple and let it “harden off” by letting it sit around in the garage or anywhere out of the elements for a couple of weeks or even a month is fine. Remove two to three inches of the lower leaves - you will see bumps underneath that are where roots will form. Plant in barely damp soil packing tightly around the base.
Do not over water. Pineapples are bromeliads and so feed through their leaves. Although ground fertilizer is necessary for good root development it will not feed the plant. Every 3-4 weeks feed by foliar application with fertilizer for acid loving plants, such as for azalea, coffee, etc.
Most failures growing pineapple are a result of over watering, under fertilizing, lack of sun, and impatience with the 18-24 months it takes to grow. Be forewarned that the pineapple may appear to be doing nothing or even look worse when in fact it is developing and will be fine and start growing months later. Keep soil free of nematodes, ants, mealy bugs, rodents.
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