It has been a little while since I have included an article from Jo Robinson’s book, “Eating on the Wild Side”. Since we are in the middle of the year and most of you have your favorites planted in the garden, I thought that I would share information about another fruit that we cannot grow in Nebraska – the pineapple, so here we go!
Pineapples are our second most popular tropical fruit. Like bananas, they are relatively high in sugar and low in phytonutrients. They are a far cry from the wild pineapples, which are bitter, seedy fruits guarded by spikey leaves to ward off predators. These undesirable traits motivated ancient farmers to create more pleasing varieties. They succeeded. By 1595, according to Sir Walter Raleigh, much friendlier fruit was growing in the area now known as Venezuela. This was the year the Raleigh journeyed up the Orinoco River and was greeted by men and women from the Maipure tribe, who were bearing baskets of ripe pineapples. It appears from Raleigh’s description that the pineapples were very similar to the Cayenne, the variety that now dominates United States and world markets. If so, our present-day pineapples could be four-hundred-year heirlooms.
The first pineapple to challenge the Cayenne’s worldwide dominion was developed in the 1990’s by a consortium of Hawaiian pineapple growers. The growers were working with breeding stock that had been collected from the jungles of South America and Africa in the 1930’s. After decades of crossing and re-crossing the plants, one hybrid produced pineapples that was sweeter and less acidic that the Cayenne. It was also more pleasing to look at. Its shin was golden, not the mixed green-gold of the Cayenne, and its flesh was a deeper hue of gold.
Del Monte spent ten years in litigation trying to maintain its monopoly on the fruit, although the company succeeded in knocking down a three-hundred-million-dollar class-action lawsuit, a federal judge ruled that other tropical fruit companies were free to market the MD-2 under different names. Two competing brands now on the market are Hawaii Gold and Maui Gold. All three brands come from the same genetic stock.
When you shop for pineapples in most large supermarkets, you will see the traditional Cayenne variety and at least one of the new super-sweet varieties. Paradoxically, the sweeter pineapples are the more healthful choice. Although they have 25 percent more sugar than the Cayenne, their glycemic index rating is the same. On the plus side, the MD-2 clones have 135 percent more beta-carotene and 350 percent more vitamin C than the Cayenne. One serving provides 95 percent of the recommended allowance of vitamin C, making them an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin.
Once you have decided which variety to buy, concentrate on choosing the freshest pineapple in the market. Pineapples are harvested when ripe and do not continue to ripen once they’ve been harvested. If held too long, they begin to spoil. To choose a fresh pineapple. Look for crown leaves that are a deep green color with no signs of fading or browning. If you can pluck a leaf from the crown, it may be over the hill. When you bring the pineapple home, eat it right away or store in the refrigerator for no more than four days. Pineapples are not good keepers. ENJOY!
Horticulture Article – Del Hemsath