One of my favorite tropical fruits to grow, other than Citrus, are Pineapples. They are easy to grow, look really cool, and provide me with some of my favorite cake ingredients.
First, a little history and information about Ananas comosus, Pineapple.
The pineapple is the leading edible member of the family Bromeliaceae or Bromeliads.
Native to southern Brazil and Paraguay area where wild relatives occur, the pineapple was apparently domesticated by the Indians and carried by them up through South and Central America to Mexico and the West Indies long before the arrival of Europeans. Christopher Columbus and his shipmates saw the pineapple for the first time on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493 and then again in Panama in 1502. Caribbean Indians placed pineapples or pineapple crowns outside the entrances to their dwellings as symbols of friendship and hospitality. Spaniards introduced the pineapple into the Philippines and may have taken it to Hawaii and Guam early in the 16th Century.
I can find evidence of some 36 different varieties of Pineapple. There quite possibly could be more than that!
Growing them is easy. The pineapple is a tropical or near tropical plant. A temperature range of 65°-95°F is best, though the plant can tolerate cool nights for short periods. That is the official temperature range by the "experts". Keep in mind, I am a zone 8 and mine have actually gone down to 33 degrees in my greenhouse. They don't seem to be bothered very much. The pictures are the proof of that!
These are being grown in containers.
Rainfall should be about 45 inches per year, though the pineapple is drought tolerant and will produce fruit with as little as 25 inches , depending on cultivar, location and degree of atmospheric humidity.
The best soil for pineapple is a well-drained, sandy loam with a high content of organic matter. The pH should be within a range of 4.5 to 6.5.
Rooting one is fairly easy, though I will admit, this IS the trickiest part.
First, buy a pineapple at the grocery store. Get one that has some nice green leaves on top. If they have been trimmed, that is no problem. Cut off the top of the pineapple about 1/2 inch below the cluster of leaves. The pineapple top should then be allowed to dry for several days. Just a side note here, I accidentally left a pineapple top to dry for 6 weeks in a spare room of the house, and it still rooted. I don't recommend this, but just wanted to let you know there is no "set" time limit.
After drying, insert the pineapple top into perlite, vermiculite, coarse sand or any combination of these that you prefer, up to the base of its leaves. Keep the rooting medium moist, but not wet, during the rooting period. Rooting should occur in 6 to 8 weeks, depending on conditions. A little bottom heat will speed things up also. Keep it in bright indirect light for this time. After it has produced some roots, move it out to more dabbled sun for about 2 weeks. After this period of time, move it to full sunlight.
After you get them going, you will want to feed them. Nitrogen is essential to the increase of fruit size and total yield. I use just a balanced fertilizer of 10-10-10. You can use pretty much anything with a high first number.
It will take two to three years to get fruit, depending on how well you take care of it.
Once you get fruit, the way I can tell it is ripe, is by smell. There will be a very heavy scent of pineapple.
I have not had any real pests attack my pineapples. Mealybugs can be a problem, but again, I have not had any.....at least not on the pineapples, I think they prefer the Citrus!
I did come across a few little interesting tidbits while I was researching for this post. When unripe, the pineapple is not only inedible but poisonous, irritating the throat and acting as a drastic purgative. I have tried to eat an unripe Pineapple once. It broke off too early in a storm and I wanted to see if it would be edible. It wasn't even close! I had a piece about the size of a peanut and couldn't even keep it in my mouth, it was very bitter. So, I know I won't have to worry about being poisoned by unripe pineapple, it's too gross to eat.
If the flowers are pollinated, small, hard seeds may be present, but generally one finds only traces of undeveloped seeds. Since hummingbirds are the principal pollinators, these birds are prohibited in Hawaii to avoid the development of undesired seeds.
And finally, Pineapple juice has been employed for cleaning machete and knife blades and, with sand, for scrubbing boat decks. I can only imagine how sticky that deck was. At least no one would fall overboard!