Land Ho! Pineapples!
On a recent trip to the Azores (yes, those Portuguese Islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean), myMEGusta was surprised and delighted to stumble upon, of all things, a pineapple plantation.
And this, of course, reminded her of the delicious ways in which this fruit, not the most user friendly, can be enjoyed. A personal favorite is dead ripe pineapple, just by itself, sweet and tangy at the same time, au naturel. For delicacies like pina colada (that calorie laden beverage of pineapple and coconut), you’re actually better off opening up a can rather than going to the trouble of making fresh juice.
Another popular pineapple dish is pineapple upside down cake, which dates from the early 20th century when the Dole company started canning pineapple rings and used this idea to promote purchases.
It can be challenging to find pineapples worth the time and hassle in supermarkets. The traditional pineapple has the best potential to ripen to perfect sweetness, but you’ll rarely find a properly ripe one (look for yellow skin, avoid green ones), and they don’t ripen once picked and shipped, so no amount of counter time will ameliorate the situation.
A new breed of pineapple, called “Golden”, has been marketed for several years. While the flesh is a prettier color, and they are certainly OK, myMEGusta finds that they never achieve the flavor complexity and sweetness of an old fashioned one.
It’s a chore to trim a fresh pineapple, getting rid of all those bumps and spines, and it can feel very wasteful, but, if the fruit is at peak, it is worth the trouble. The intrepid look up the process on the internet, and give it a shot, perhaps taking more care in trimming the eyes and such than some on line examples.
Pineapples can also be grown from the trimmings of that fruit you brought home, but it’s time consuming (think years), more a venture to do for fun than to get your next meal.
New England sea captains would bring pineapples home from their journeys, starting the custom of a pineapple image on the front door meaning hospitality. (“He’s home! Come in and have some fruit!”)
But, getting back to the Azores, unlike the pineapple growing areas we often think of, e.g. Hawaii and Costa Rica, these fruits are farmed in greenhouses through a long process which involves starting baby pineapples from roots, then transplanting them to grow and ripen indoors.
When the fruits reach proper size, they are given a dose of smoke, which causes them to ripen quickly, at which point they are ready to ship throughout Europe.
Having originated in South America, pineapples were among the fruits and vegetables the earliest explorers brought across the Atlantic to their kings, queens and other benefactors.
It is amusing to think that the pineapples in those greenhouses could be descendants of the first ones which made the crossing on tiny, wind driven sailing vessels which routinely stopped in the Azores as a stepping stone on the way home.