Pineapple, Ananas comosus, is a tropical plant grown for its large edible fruits. They make a popular addition to desserts and savory meals alike, other than raw consumption. Unlike most fruits that grow on trees, pineapples grow on a small shrub, making it the perfect fruit to grow in urban homes.
What is the pineapple plant, and how long has it existed? It’s worth knowing all about this plant that produces sweet, tangy fruits that we all love so much. Keep reading, and you’ll find out all there is to know about them.
Pineapple is a perennial plant that belongs to the Bromeliaceae family. The pineapple family is home to over 3000 species, including Spanish moss. Though the plant is native to tropical and subtropical America, it is now grown in several world regions. If the fruit isn’t available in fresh form, you’ll indeed find canned pineapples in most grocery stores.
|Botanical Name||Ananas Comosus|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous Perennial|
|Size (Fully Grown)||5 Feet (About 1,5 Meters) High, 3 To 4 Feet (About 0,91 To 1,22 Meters) Wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil Type||Prefers To Grow In Well-draining Sandy Loam|
|Soil pH||4.5 To 5.6|
|Flower Color||Light Purple|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||10, And 11, But You Can Grow It Indoors Or In A Greenhouse In Cooler Climates|
|Native Area||South America|
Different Pineapple Types
Pineapples come in many different varieties, bred to suit the region’s climate they are grown in. Tons of varying pineapple cultivars are produced across Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Malaysia, Hawaii, and Australia. The different cultivars vary in characteristics and the shape, color, and size of their fruit. They also differ in the degree of sweetness and acidity of the fruit’s flesh.
Smooth Cayenne dominates the world’s cultivation of pineapples. You might also be surprised to know that over 70% of all pineapples grown are this variety, so there is a big chance that you are already familiar with it. But as you will soon observe, other cultivars are also prevalent. Here are some of the most common types you’ll find if you look for them hard enough.
- Monte Lirio
- Cayena Lisa
- Red Spanish
- James Queen
- Spanish Jewel
- Roja Espanola
- Singapore Red
- Smooth Cayenne
Origins Of The Wild Pineapple Plant And Its Journey To The Royal Table
Historians believe that the wild pineapple plant originates from the Paraguay River banks between Brazil and Paraguay. After its domestication, it quickly spread throughout South America and later to the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico.
When Cristopher Columbus reached the New World, it was already an essential plant growing in the West Indies, being used for food and wine by the native Americans.
Columbus was even the one who took pineapples back to Spain, calling them piña de Indes, or “pines of the Indians,” where the Europeans treasured them as a new kind of exotic fruit. Meanwhile, the Portuguese discovered the fruit in Brazil and introduced it to India and Africa by mid of the 16th century. It was named pineapple by the Europeans for its resemblance to the pine cones, with the name first appearing in records in 1714.
By the end of the 16th century, we grew pineapples in many tropical regions of the world. Although Europeans liked the fruit a lot, they didn’t have luck cultivating it for many years due to the unsuitable climate. After developing “hothouses” in, 1658 (which we now know as greenhouses), pineapples could be grown successfully, but only on a small scale.
The pineapples imported from the tropics and grown in the few greenhouses in England and Netherland were considered a novelty. They were only available to the wealthiest monarchs like Catherine the Great, Louis XV, and Charles II. And as you might expect, soon, the plant became a symbol of luxury and wealth.
Other Uses For It…
Though only the royals could afford to eat it, people often rented and used the plant as a display for special holiday meals. Pineapples were also a popular motif in architecture, interior designing, and clothing, symbolizing generosity, hospitality, and wealth. These days, the biggest pineapple producing countries include Costa Rica, China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Brazil.
What Does The Pineapple Plant Look Like?
Pineapple is a herbaceous perennial shrub that grows to a height of 2.5 to 5ft (about 0,76 to 1,5 meters) and spreads 3 to 4 ft (about 0,91 to 1,22 meters). It has a short, thick stem with a rosette of thick leaves. When it flowers, you’ll initially find a large number of separate purple flowers that eventually fuse their fruits to form a large fruit, the pineapple!
Each pineapple plant gives birth to 30 to 40 succulent, long, pointed leaves arranged in a rosette on a short, thick stem. These waxy leaves are 20 to 72 inches (approximately 0,50 to 1,83 meters) long with sharp spines along the edges and a pointing, needle-like tip. Depending on the variety, they may be either uniformly green or carry red or yellow stripes along the margins or center.
Before fruit formation, each pineapple plant gives about 200 flowers (some cultivars produce even more than this). The plant makes the flowers at the end of the elongated stem, each with a pointed bract. These small light purple flowers are initially separated and give individual fruits.
After the pineapple plant flowers, the flowering stem extends and grows a rosette of short leaves or the crown. The flowers below the crown give individual fruits that eventually merge to form a single cylindrical fruit with the crown on top. It usually takes 20 days for a pineapple to develop the fruit entirely.
The pineapple fruit has a tough rind with hexagonal units that are dark green, yellow, or yellowish-red once the fruit ripens completely. The flesh is either yellow or white and is fibrous and very juicy.
After the plant gives its first fruit, we can see suckers, or side shoots, appear from the main stem. These can either be removed for propagation or left to progress and produce more pineapples on the same plant.
What Kind Of Conditions Do Pineapples Need To Grow Well?
Growing pineapples isn’t hard if you live in a warm, tropical climate. Most home gardeners grow pineapples from the crown of the store-bought pineapples. So the next time you get a pineapple, think before tossing the leafy top into the trash! You might as well plant it in your garden and grow more pineapples out of it.
Because pineapple is a tropical plant, It’s grown as a houseplant in colder regions where the outdoor temperatures aren’t suitable for growth. The plant needs about 18 to 24 months to harvest after being planted, but this depends on the variety.
What Temperature Do Pineapples Need To Grow Well?
Optimal temperatures to grow pineapple lie in the range of 68°F and 86°F (about 20 to 30°C). Temperatures below 60°F (about 15,5°C) or above 90°F (approximately 32°C) will slow down the growth.
Chilly temperatures may result in flecked or scorched leaves, and the fruit may even rot. If there’s a frost prediction, either use an insulating material to cover the pineapple, especially at night, or move them indoors, if you are growing in a container.
Pineapple wants to grow in full sun, free-draining, slightly acidic soil. I recommend that you get the soil tested beforehand. For example, if the soil is too alkaline, it will need a sulfur treatment that lowers the soil pH, which must be done before you plant pineapple.
Since pineapple has a short root system, you can even grow them in pots. Sandy loam is the best kind of soil for their growth since they aren’t tolerant of waterlogged conditions.
Water And Fertilizer
Though the plant is drought-tolerant, it will need consistent soil moisture to develop the fruit properly. A bit of water every week is generally suitable for their growth, which can be offered through irrigation if there’s no rain. Feed the plant with a balanced fertilizer every two to three months to help keep the growth at its best.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Pineapples?
Packed with Vitamin B and C, manganese, and fibers, pineapples are healthy fruits to enjoy when raw, in savory dishes, or desserts. Let’s learn if there are any conditions in which its consumption should be avoided or monitored.
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
The old myths of pineapples inducing early labor and miscarriage keep most pregnant women away from pineapples. But, according to experts, it’s a safe and healthy fruit that even pregnant and breastfeeding women can take in moderation.
It’s a healthy fruit to include in a diet of children older than six months old. But, if you find any allergic symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, rash or gas, contact a pediatrician.
People With Allergies
Allergies from pineapple are rare but may exist. The allergy may result in itching, digestive problems, dizziness, breathing problems, fainting, and even anaphylactic shock in severe cases. So, always seek medical attention immediately if there’s any chance of going into anaphylactic shock.
People With Diabetes
The glycemic index of pineapples lies between 51 and 73, depending on the variety. The plant is safe to eat as long as it is consumed in moderation.
Pineapple, together with its skin, flesh, and crown, isn’t toxic to pets. The thorns, leaves, and unripe fruit can be mildly poisonous because of the bromelain enzyme’s presence.