Pineapple, Ananas comosus, belongs to the Bromeliaceae family, from which one of its most important health-promoting compounds, the enzyme bromelain, was named. The Spanish name for pineapple, pina, and the root of its English name, reflects the fruit’s visual similarity to the pinecone.
Pineapples are actually not just one fruit but a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core. Each fruitlet can be identified by an “eye,” the rough spiny marking on the pineapple’s surface.
Pineapples have a wide cylindrical shape, a scaly green, brown or yellow skin and a regal crown of spiny, blue-green leaves. The fibrous flesh of pineapple is yellow in color and has a vibrant tropical flavor that balances the tastes of sweet and tart. The area closer to the base of the fruit has more sugar content and therefore a sweeter taste and more tender texture.
Look for pineapples that are heavy for their size. While larger pineapples will have a greater proportion of edible flesh, there is usually no difference in quality between a small and large size pineapple. Pineapples should be free of soft spots, bruises and darkened “eyes,” all of which may indicate that the pineapple is past its prime. Pineapple stops ripening as soon as it is picked, so choose fruit with a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. Avoid pineapple that smells musty, sour or fermented.
Pineapple can be left at room temperature for one or two days before serving. While this process will not make the fruit any sweeter, it will help it to become softer and more juicy. Yet, as they are very perishable, you should still watch them closely during this period to ensure that they do not spoil. After two days, if you are still not ready to consume the pineapple, you should wrap it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator where it will keep for a maximum of three to five days.
Pineapple that has been cut up should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will stay fresher and retain more taste and juiciness if you also place some liquid, preferably some juice from the pineapple, in the container. Although pineapple can be frozen, this process greatly affects its flavor.
Pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. It is also a good source of vitamin B1, vitamin B6, folate, copper and dietary fiber.