This weekend was a satisfying one for me on the green-fingered front as I harvested my very first home-grown pineapple! I’d had an allotment in the UK and loved the sense of achievement in growing my own beans, peas, potatoes, swiss chard, and all manner of other things…even if the harvests sometimes weren’t quite in proportion to the effort invested! So when we moved into this house in October and I spotted what looked like a pineapple plant in a pot I was pretty excited to see what would come of it.
Pineapples grow on low growing, spiky plants, which produce a mass of flowers at the top of a thick central stem to create the fruit. I hadn’t realised before that the pineapple fruit is actually a composite of the individual fruits of each flower produced, rather than coming from just one single flower. So the knobbly bits on the outside skin were in fact each once a flower and a mini fruit!
I have to confess to having done precisely nothing to aid the fruit production. It was there as a tiny little fruit when we moved in, and over the past few months has grown steadily in the warm, wet tropical great outdoors. Low maintenance gardening at its most rewarding! I’d not looked at it for quite a while but then realised this weekend that it had gone a lovely golden colour on the outside and had started to topple over on its stem. It was definitely telling me it was ready for picking!
You get so used to seeing pineapples in supermarkets with very green exteriors that I was worried I’d left it too late. Actually, having done some reading now, I’ve discovered that pineapples are not one of those fruits which ripen much at all after they are picked. The top five pineapple producing countries are the Philippines, Brazil, Coasta Rica, Thailand and China, whilst the top five pineapple consumer countries are the US, France, Japan, Belgium and Italy. So whilst it might be a logistical necessity to harvest fruit under-ripe in order to get them to supermarkets around the world, unbruised and presentable, it certainly doesn’t do justice to their flavour.
I discovered this when I tried a sample from our own home grown pineapple, still warm from the sun and needing the ants brushed away as they scurried out in annoyance from their hiding place in the leaves. Delicious, sweet and bursting with flavour. Amazing.
Now the fruit has been picked the plant will die. But there are two ways to get more fruit from the same plant. The first is to cut the green leafy crown from the pineapple fruit and plant it in the ground to create its own plant. Or the original plant will sometimes produce a few leave buds, which look like miniature versions of the leafy crown from the pineapple fruit. These too can be harvested and grown on into another fruit-producing plant. Not that pineapple fruiting is a speedy business. It can take around two years to get a fruit onto your plate, depending on the growth method. Low maintenance, yes, but not exactly instant gratification! We may not even still be in this house or even this country then! But I will pot up the replacement plants and let them do their thing. Although it may be the next occupant who actually gets the pleasure of eating the harvest, it is quite nice thinking that someone else may enjoy the fruits of my (lack of!) labour.