Named for its resemblance to a pine cone in English, this tropical fruit was originally discovered and domesticated in South America. Now cultivated in many tropical regions throughout the world, he pineapple plant is a member of a group of plants called bromeliads, or air plants. Their modified leaves and stems catch and store water, which the plant can then use as a resource. Pineapples can weigh up to 20 pounds, but average 2-5 pounds.
Season: April - August
How to select: Available year round at larger markets, but peak season is Spring. Pineapples cannot be picked until they are ripe on the plant, because their starch does not convert to sugar once picked. Thus, you want a pineapple free of green, with strong color and slightly soft to the touch (they can continue to ripen at home, but they will not get any sweeter). Leaves should be crisp and green, without browning. Pineapples past their prime will be too soft with dark spots on the skin. Pineapple can be found canned in its own juice or sugar syrup in ring slices, chunks or bits, as well as frozen or candied.
How to store: At room temperature for up to 2 days away from light, or in perforated plastic in the refrigerator for up to a week.
How to prepare: Pineapple is delicious fresh in salads or desserts, as well as sauteed, grilled or broiled. It cannot be used fresh in gelatin mixtures because its natural enzymes will prevent the gelatin from setting (though canned is okay). The enzyme in pineapple is terrific at tenderizing meats, so use it as a marinade, but don't leave meat next to pineapple more than 10 minutes before serving or it will turn it mushy. It will also digest proteins in milk products, so again add to cottage cheese or yogurt just before serving. To prepare a fresh pineapple, cut a slice off the top and bottom, then cut the rind off the sides in wide strokes trying to leave as much flesh as possible while removing all of the "eyes." Then cut lengthwise and remove the core from each half.
Matches well with: apricots, avocados, bacon, bananas, brandy, coconut, cucumbers, grapefruits, hazelnuts, liqueurs, lime, mangoes, lemon, mint, oranges, papayas, raspberries, rum, strawberries, sugar, vanilla