Ten FAQs about the Prickly Pineapple

PineapplePineapple,  despite its off-putting exterior, is America's second most popular tropical fruit after the banana, says the George Mateljan Foundation on the Whole Foods website.  Obviously, a ton of people have discovered that, hidden inside its ugly and sometimes vicious exterior, is a treat that's delicious (a delightful blend of sweet and tart), nutritious, filling, and, best of all, low in calories.  For pineapple fans who bemoan its fragility and for pineapple avoiders who fear the challenge of carving it, we've put together a series of helpful FAQs to enhance your confidence when interacting with this finger-pricking product. We've included advice from selection all the way to consumption.  Here we go.


What's the best time of year to buy a pineapple?


Right now is just fine.  Pineapples are in peak season from March-July, but they are available in most supermarkets all year round.


How do I select a good pineapple?

Here's what the Dole site says (and it should know): "Contrary to popular belief, the ease with which leaves can be pulled out is not necessarily a sign of ripeness."  Dole warns consumers to avoid fruit that is old-looking or dry or that has brown leaves.  Also, it says, "Avoid bruised fruit or those with soft spots." 


According to About.com, you should check out the leaves.  Fresh, ripe pineapples have green, fresh-looking leaves in a small, compact crown.  The site also says, "The nose proves to be a powerful tool in determining ripeness."  If the pineapple has a pleasant, strong, sweet scent, that's an important positive sign.  About.com also recommends selecting pineapple that feels heavy, has no indication of mold, and has bright, shiny flat "eyes." In other words, pretend you're buying a diamond; look it over very carefully, although you won't need a magnifying glass. 


How soft should it feel?  Here's one test: the bottom should give a little to medium pressure.  Food scientist Dr. Joe Regenstein says, "I tend to buy them with a little 'softness.'"  But too soft is overripe.


If it's not quite ripe, can I leave it on my counter to ripen?


Bad idea. Pineapples do not ripen further after harvest.  Chances are, if you leave it out of the fridge, it will hurry up and get moldy and ferment. It will also get more acidic, though it will not get sweeter. Therefore, put it in the fridge immediately.


How should I store an uncut pineapple and for how long?


Store it in the fridge, say most experts.  However, I did find one cautious dissenting opinion in the Whole Foods article mentioned above.  It says that pineapple can be left at room temperature for one or two days before serving.  BUT since it's a very perishable fruit, the site says, you need to watch it closely during this period.  (Sorry, I'm too busy to do that.)  Furthermore, leaving it out will not make it any sweeter; it may only help to make it softer and juicier, says Whole Foods. I say forget the counter.


What to do when you're ready to refrigerate it?  According to the same site, wrap it in a plastic bag, where it will keep for 3-5 days at most.  "For best shelf life, keep the pineapple intact until you're ready to consume or serve it," food scientist Dr. Tim Bowser recommends. 


How should I store cut pineapple and for how long?


Although pineapple is very acidic, research has demonstrated that bacteria can live on it.  To keep yourself and the pineapple in good health, refrigerate it.  Put it in an airtight container with some juice, preferably pineapple juice from the fruit you just cut. 


Don't expect cut pineapple to stay fresh for more than 2 days.  "It turns brown relatively fast," Dr. Regenstein warns.  Fortunately, it's so good that it generally gets gobbled up before spoiling.


Can I freeze fresh pineapple?


Yes.  Freeze pineapple chunks in juice in an airtight container. But freezing and defrosting does damage the taste. Consider serving canned pineapple instead.


What's the best way to cut a pineapple?


There's a lot of advice on this subject.  No doubt, the easiest way, though perhaps not the best, is to have someone else do it.  Let's consider some alternatives. 


- If you're not eager to do battle with a fruit in "armor," in many supermarkets, you can buy fresh pineapple already cut and packaged.


- Alternatively, you can pick out your favorite whole pineapple (following our advice on selection) and then ask a supermarket produce employee to peel and core it for you.  Many stores have equipment that can do that.


- If you plan to cut pineapples regularly, you might want to buy a device recommended by Dr. Bowser:    "The best gadget I’ve ever used to slice a pineapple is the “Pineapple Slicer & Wedger”by Vacu Vin. See it on their website at:  http://www.vacuvin.com/1275/Pineapple_Slicer_-_Wedger.html Two cautionary notes when working with this device: First, don't “drill” through the bottom of the pineapple.  If you do, you may quickly drench yourself with pineapple juice and make a big mess in the kitchen. Second, be careful pulling out the slices because the juice will come out with them. If you pull too hard, you might end up slinging pineapple juice all over."


- When equipment is used, there's likely to be more waste, so you may want to do the cutting yourself with just a serrated knife.  If this is your first time attacking a pineapple, we recommend Googling "pineapple, how to cut."  That will get you links to demonstrations, with photos or a video.  As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words."


-  Begin by cutting off the crown and the base. Then , says About.com: "Slice off the skin in a downward vertical motion, following the natural curvature of the fruit."  Here's our additional thought: wear disposable rubber gloves for a little protection from getting pricked.


- How to get rid of the "eyes"?  When you slice off the skin, go deep enough to cut off the eyes, or dig them out with the tip of a knife or peeler. They must go since they're impossible to chew and don't taste or look good.


-  Cut the pineapple in half and then into quarters. Next, cut it into slices, wedges, or chunks.


-  To core or not to core?  Some people find the core too tough to consume, so, when serving company, it's a good idea to remove it.  For yourself, chew it or leave it.


What's the tastiest part of the pineapple?


The fruit near the bottom is the sweetest, says Whole Foods.  That part "has more sugar content and therefore a sweeter taste and more tender texture." 


What are some health benefits of eating pineapple?


According to the Dole website, pineapples are "the only known source of bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory properties."  For a detailed discussion of bromelain and other health benefits derived from pineapple, click here.


How long can I keep canned pineapple?


Just consult the "use by" date on the unopened can.  It will probably give you at least a year.  Opened leftovers, if refrigerated and covered with juice, should hold up for a week. 





Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering


Catherine N. Cutter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Food Science


Joe Regenstein, Ph.D., Cornell University, Dept. of Food Science


wholefoods.com “Pineapple"


about.com "Home Cooking, Pineapple Selection and Storage"


dole.com "Pineapple"


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