In last week’s post of the recipe for my Mango and Avocado Salad, I sang the praises of the mango. This week, I want to focus on another amazing tropical fruit—the pineapple.
Wikipedia states that pineapple purportedly originated in an area between Southern Brazil and Paraguay. The fruit was given the name “ananas”, by the indigenous peoples of South America who spoke a dialect of a language known as Tupi. “Ananas” means “excellent fruit.” Interestingly though, pineapple is not a single fruit. A pineapple forms from a bunch of flowers that grow closely together. The individual fruits that form at the site of each flower actually join together to form what appears as a single fruit.
It’s funny; although pineapples have been available for a long time in the U.S., we still rarely eat fresh ones. Admittedly, it’s a little messy to prepare and takes a bit more effort than opening up a can, but as with all fruits and vegetables, canned pineapple is no match for fresh. The extra effort and mess is worth it.
Enough on the background of pineapple, though: what’s in it for your health, how do you select a ripe pineapple, and are there any tricks for making it just a bit easier to prepare?
What’s in pineapple for your health?
Just as with any fruit that has that tangy taste, you can be sure that pineapple packs a good punch of vitamin C—a single cup of it offers well over your daily requirement. Pineapple also contains bromelain, a protein digesting enzyme. That makes it a good meat tenderizer, but as the University of Maryland Medical Center notes, bromelain has also been used to reduce swelling after surgeries and with infections. Some research also suggests that the enzyme may be as effective as ibuprofen and naproxen in reducing the pain of arthritis.
Choosing a ripe pineapple
Pineapples have to be picked ripe. Unlike most fruit, they don’t ripen further once picked. The exterior color of a pineapple—whether more yellow or green—doesn’t necessarily indicate its ripeness, either. So given a row of pineapples in your grocery store produce section, how do you know which one to select?
I found a 1982 New York Times article, A Guide to Choosing a Pineapple that was still spot on. It also had a lot of interesting information about pineapples back then. (Wait, did we even have the Internet in 1982?). The article says that yes, while a green pineapple can be ripe, one with a yellow-gold coloring to its skin is far more likely to be ripe. The article recommends sniffing the base of the pineapple for a slightly sweet smell. When pressed, it should give just a bit.
You definitely don’t want to eat an overripe or bruised pineapple. If the fruit gives too much, is mushed in any area, or is red in color, move on to the next one.
Preparing a pineapple
There’s really no avoiding the spikiness of the outside of a pineapple, so when preparing a fresh pineapple, you simply have to handle it with a little care. Preparation is pretty straightforward, though, as this Whole Foods Market web page explains. Essentially, you just cut off the top and bottom, stand it on its end and slice away the spiky exterior, getting just past the “eyes.” Next you cut it lengthwise into quarters, and cut out and compost the core. What you have left is tangy, sweet, and delicious pineapple. Slice it in chunks, rings, or even long pineapple wedges, and eat!