Do Pineapples Grow On Trees?

The Short Answer is: No!

See those pineapples in that picture? Not a tree! More like a four foot high spiky monster protecting it’s sweet sweet fruit from invaders. Imagine picking that fruit for a living, look how hard it would be! Pineapple pickers have to wear heavy long sleeve shirts, long pants, thick gloves and eye protection to pick the fruit. And pineapples only grow in hot, tropical places. And machines can’t pick them, only humans can. Now do you appreciate your pineapple?? Never take that tart goodness for granted again!

Photo by Milei Vencel and used with permission without changes via Creative Commons.

How do pineapples grow?

Pineapples grow on low plants with long, hard sharp leaves. Each plant grows one fruit at a time over the course of a season and it takes 18 months to grow one pineapple. But plants can live as long as fifty years, so each plant could yield fifty pineapples in their lifetime.

Pineapples can only grow in a tropical climate which is why Hawai’i grew pineapple for over a hundred years and why it is the only state in the whole United States to grow it. (Coffee is another plant that only grows in Hawai’i, though Puerto Rico, a territory, not a state, also has a coffee growing industry. California is experimenting with coffee trees, but the results for long term industry are not clear yet.) Growing pineapple in Hawai’i proved to be too expensive for the big fruit companies and now most pineapple we buy, whether it is canned or fresh, is grown in Central America or the Philippines. You can grow your own in Southern California or Florida, more on that below.

Maui Gold Pineapples

There is a small plantation on Maui growing pineapple in smaller batches. They are called Maui Gold Pineapples and the fruit is grown, harvested and packed in and around Haili’imaile town, a historic pineapple town on the slopes of Haleakala. As the giant pineapple business was coming to its end as a big business in Hawai’i, some locals got together to keep the pineapples growing and keep the history and workforce moving into the 21st century. I’ll let them tell it:

Maui Gold® is grown exclusively by Haliimaile Pineapple Company. Locally owned and operated, Haliimaile Pineapple Company was created by former Maui Pineapple Company employees who were committed to saving the 100 year tradition of pineapple on Maui. As skilled local farmers, we have been cultivating the Maui Gold® variety for over 25 years. Although there are many “Gold” options available on the market, they’re not equally sweet and delicious. The quality of the land and the quality of the grower are directly linked to the quality of the pineapple. We strive for perfection in all three.

From the Maui Gold website.

Dole Pineapple and Hawai’i – A Bittersweet History

Photo by Ramon FValazquez used by permission without changes via Creative Commons

Dole Pineapple was the original company to start growing pineapples in the early 1900s. James Dole came from the east coast of the united states to Hawai’i in 1899, a recent graduate of Harvard with a degree in agriculture and horticulture. He establishes the Hawaiian Pineapple Company and is so successful that his name becomes synonymous with quality pineapple and becomes the name of the company.

Of course, there is controversy around all this – James Dole’s cousin, Sanford Dole had been part of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and became president of the newly established republic. This happened five years before James Dole arrived, but due to annexation to the United States, tariffs for produce was removed and so James could sell his fruit with high profits to the mainland.

How do I know if a pineapple is ripe?

photo by Bubba73 and used with permission via creative commons with no changes to the original.

Pineapples are picked when they are ripe, so the one you see in a store are ripe.

Contrary to popular belief, they do not ripen more on the store shelf or on your counter at home. They may turn from green to gold, but that is simply a color change in the skin, not a change in the fruit’s ripeness.

Make sure to pick a healthy looking pineapple, nice firm skin, no bruises. The leaves on its crown should be green and healthy looking, like the one to the right. You should also be able to smell the sweet scent of pineapple when you pick it up.

How to grow a pineapple

While pineapples can only grow in abundance in tropical climates, you can grow your own if you live hot place and have a garden, or at least a very warm spot and a large pot. Florida and Southern California are ideal spots to put one in your garden.

Pineapple plants can be part of a succulent or cactus style garden, providing size, texture and color to your garden. Due to their size and poky nature, having them be an accent plant in a corner area is ideal.

To grow one for yourself, follow these steps:

Buy a fresh pineapple! Unfortunately you can’t buy pineapple seeds or grow pineapple from leftover chunks in your canned pineapple slices.

When you are ready to eat the pineapple, cut off the top, or the crown, and set it aside. Then cut your pineapple using any of these techniques or cool tools and eat!

After eating your yummy pineapple, take the crown and cut off as much of the fruit that is left as it tends to rot.

Strip away the outer layers of leaves of the crown.

Set the stripped crown in a safe spot and let dry for a day or two.

Once dry, put the crown in a jar of water, held aloft by toothpicks, so the bottom of the crown (where the fruit) once sat, is submerged in the water.

Roots will start to form in the water between one and two weeks later. Keep the water fresh.

When the roots are a few inches long, your pineapple is ready to plant in a pot or in your garden. You may want to plant in a pot first, to be sure it is healthy. The below pics are about two months from initial cutting. The leaves got dry at the tips so I trimmed them off.

Once in your pot or garden, the pineapple will continue to grow it’s beautiful silvery dark green leaves.

The pineapple will be mostly decorative for a long while as it can take up to three years to actually sprout some fruit. But if you keep it healthy, one day you’ll look at it and see a tiny little sprout happening and after a few more months, an actual pineapple!

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