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Pineapples are believed to be native to Paraguay. The Indians carried them as far north as Mexico and ultimately throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Fifteenth and sixteenth century trade ships carried them to places as far away as Australia,India,South Africa,China and the Philippines. It was during this period of exploration that the pineapple found its way to Hawaii; however, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the first plantations started to appear and the pineapple industry began to flourish on the islands.
The fresh pineapple industry has change dramatically in recent years. The growing demand coupled with the escalating cost of land in Hawaii has meant a shift in production to other parts of the world. Today most of the pineapples we consume are grown in Central America. Countries like Costa Rica,Guatemala and Honduras are among the leading exporters to the United States.
Another important change in the industry has been in the variety of pineapple that is grown. Advances in agricultural practices and plant breeding have given us pineapples that are not only sweeter but also more appealing with a golden shell color to match the fruit inside. With an 18-month growth cycle to maturity, pineapple plantings are carefully controlled and monitored to give us fresh pineapple throughout the year.
When purchasing pineapple it is important to note that all pineapple are picked when ripe. The conversion of starch to sugar stops once a pineapple is picked and they do not continue to ripen once harvested. While the golden color of the shell is attractive, it has little to do with the maturity of the fruit inside. Also, the old practice of pulling leaves out of the crown has nothing to do with ripeness. To pick a good pineapple simply look for fruit that is not old looking. In other words, the leaves of the crown should not be dry or brown and the fruit should be void of bruises and soft spots.
In general, you should try to purchase your pineapple as close as possible to when you plan to use it. Pineapple can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days but longer than that could result in chill damage. Cut pineapple can be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container for a couple of days as well.
Preparation and Uses
To cut a fresh pineapple begin by twisting off the crown. Next cut the fruit lengthwise into quarters. Trim off the ends and remove the core of the fruit. Remove the shell of the fruit and finally cut it into chucks appropriate for serving.
If you want to make a “pineapple boat” leave the crown in tact and cut the entire fruit lengthwise including the crown. Next, with a thin-bladed, flexible knife carefully remove the fruit from the shell, cut away the core and cut the fruit into chucks. The “boat” can then be re-filled with the pineapple chunks or a combination of fresh fruits to create an attractive serving dish.
There are a number of culinary tools available to make the job of cutting and coring pineapples a snap. These can be purchased at culinary specialty stores as well as many supermarkets.
Dairy products, such as, cottage cheese should not be mixed with pineapple until just prior to serving. Pineapple can be used to tenderize and enhance the flavor of many meats.
One cup of diced pineapple is just 74 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates yet it contains 94% of the RDA of Vitamin C and 91% of the RDA of Manganese. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Copper, Thiamin and Vitamin B6.