In the middle of a Midwest winter, finding locally grown produce is a bit of a challenge except for maybe some hold-over winter squash. This is the time of year when I’m thankful for growers across the country and world that continue to provide us with tasty and nutritious fruits and vegetables. While the temperatures might be chilly in our zone, southern regions can keep tropical style fruits stocked in the produce section of our supermarkets. One of my favorites to look for is pineapple, and it’s also one fruit that I don’t even mind reaching for in the canned section all year round.
Pineapple is believed to have originated in the Brazilian rainforests. They were harvested by the native tribes and spread throughout South and Central America. When Christopher Columbus landed in the new world, the Spaniards named the fruit “piña” due to its resemblance to a pinecone. Columbus returned to Spain with pineapple, where the fruit became very popular with Queen Isabella. The English added the word “apple” to the end of piña, which associated the new fruit with other delicious fruits.
When thinking of pineapple production, most people think of Hawaii, where commercial production was introduced in the 1800’s. However, production declined in the 1970’s and most of the pineapple that we enjoy now comes from the Philippines and Costa Rica.
When choosing a fresh pineapple, select one that is heavy and fragrant with firm shell and green leaves that are firmly attached at the crown. Pineapples can be stored at room temperature if used within two days, but should be refrigerated if stored longer, up to five days. Cutting a pineapple can be intimidating to some people but doesn’t need to be. Start by cutting off the bottom and the crown, and then remove the shell by ‘carving’ down the sides in sections, being sure to remove the prickly eyes. Once the peel is removed, the fruit can be cut into slices or cut lengthwise in half and then quarters and then cut into chunks. Most people like to remove the core, which can be a little tough (but that is my husband’s favorite part). There are also specialty tools that can make cutting and coring easier, as well as a tiktok hack that I didn’t have much success with.
If you are feeling adventurous, you might save the crown of the pineapple and try to grow your own, like a friend of mine recently did. To try this, cut it off the crown, about an inch below the leaf cluster. Trim away the outer fruit portion and a few of the leaves, leaving some of the inner core. Allow the wound moisture to dry up for a week to discourage rotting, then plant in a large pot with moist, well-drained soil and place in a window with bright, indirect light. When the weather warms, move it outside for the same lighting conditions. Then, be prepared to move the pot in and out of the house for 2-3 years – or more. My friends moved their plant in and out for 7 years and were finally rewarded with a delicious pineapple!
Pineapples are a rich source of vitamin C, an assortment of B vitamins, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. Pineapple is also a source of bromelain, an enzyme compound that helps to break down collagen fibers in meats and is often used in marinades. That same compound will also inhibit gelatin from setting up, so fresh pineapple should not be used, however canned pineapple is fine because the bromelain has been deactivated during canning. Bromelain also aids in digestion and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent which can be beneficial in chronic disease management.
One of my favorite things to do with fresh pineapple is to dehydrate it…it tastes as good as candy to me! Instructions for dehydrating can be found at the MU Extension website at https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/gh1563
I like to keep crushed pineapple on my shelf to make the tasty muffin recipe below…it’s a favorite at my house and our Cooking Matters classes!
Carrot Pineapple Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)
1 medium carrot, grated (about ¾ cup)
1 cup canned crushed pineapple with juice
4 Tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup cold water
1 Tablespoon white distilled vinegar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Nutrition information: Calories: 167, Total Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: .6g, Sodium: 161mg, Carbohydrates: 22g, Fiber: 2g, Protein: 3g
Recipe adapted from Cooking Matters, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Denise Sullivan is a Nutrition and Health Education Specialist for MU Extension in the Urban West Region, serving Jackson and Platte Counties. For research-based nutrition and food safety information and programs, visit https://extension.missouri.edu/counties/urban-west-region
MU Extension is a partnership of the University of Missouri campuses, Lincoln University, the people of Missouri through county extension councils, and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Visit our website at: https://extension.missouri.edu/counties/urban-west-region