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How To Pick A Ripe Pineapple

Finding a ripe pineapple at the store can be a challenge. So often they turn out to be tasteless or too acidic, which can really be a downer.

I've developed a few identification methods that work for me, but enough people tell me they use different criteria when picking out their pineapples that I thought I'd check in with fruit connoisseur Ken Love to see if any of these methods reliably work

Why Is It So Hard To Find A Ripe Pineapple?

Your problems finding a tasty ripe pineapple is just one facet of a bigger problem - fruit being picked too soon and grown in poor soils.

"I don't think it's only pineapple that are tasteless," Love said. "Most fruit is, unless it comes from the farm and there is a little farmer pride in it. Most fruit going to the average grocery store chain is picked early, ripened artificially with gas while its being shipped, often thousands of miles."

Ripe Pineapple GirlYou can get some great locally-grown pineapples in Hawaii that are very sweet and not acidic, but Love said stone fruit such as apples, peaches, and plums, which can be grown through much of the continental US, is just as abysmal in Hawaii as the pineapples are on the mainland - most imported fruit just won't compare to locally grown fruit.

Part of the problem is that it takes a farmer with a good eye to spot a ripe pineapple and know when to pick it, something industrial farms lack.

"Most of us do use ripening as an indicator," Love said, "but it depends on the  lighter side's relation to the sun. You can have one side bright light yellow and the back side dark green and be almost inedible. Ripening and sweetening are virtually hand in hand, more ripe is more sweet. Picked too early and it may never ripen, only soften."

How to Find A Ripe Pineapple At The Store:

The best identifiers for a sweet pineapple are probably the same ones your grandmother was looking for - smell and appearance. 

First, look for a pineapple that has a lighter color around the base. Although the rest of the pineapple may have varying degrees of lightness, this is just an indication of sun exposure, and doesn't necessarily indicate increased ripeness.

Ripe Pineapple Ken LoveKen Love

Ken is the Executive Director of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers and owner of Love Family Farms on Hawaii's Big Island. He's lived in Hawaii for over 30 years, and is a proponent of sustainable and organic agricultural practices.

Next, pick up a prospective pineapple and sniff it at the bottom. A good pineapple should have a distinctively sweet smell. If you can't smell anything, it's probably a lemon.

If you can find both of these traits, you should have a fairly good pineapple on your hands.

Not all brands are equal, though. "Maui Gold is much much better than Dole Ecuador or Costa Rican," Love said.

Will Pineapples Continue To Ripen Once Picked?

So you've got your supposedly ripe pineapple home from the store, but do you dive in immediately or try to ripen it more by letting it sit around for awhile?

Pineapples can continue to ripen once picked, Love said, but if they're picked too soon they won't taste good no matter how much you let them ripen. They'll just continue to soften without getting any sweeter.

One pineapple ripening myth that Love believes doesn't hold water is that setting a pineapple up-side-down will cause it to ripen evenly or more thoroughly.

On the other hand, putting one in a paper bag with another fruit like an avocado or banana may spur ripening via exposure to ethylene gas, he said.

Following Up:

Learn more about buying and ripening fruit here.

Had enough ripe pineapple for awhile? Read about more interesting fruit.

Get on a healthy raw food diet.


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