Have you ever seen a prickly, spiny pineapple at your local grocery store and wondered where it came from? Do pineapples grow on trees or bushes? I recently had the opportunity to visit a family-run working pineapple plantation in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. Costa Rica is the number one exporter of pineapple worldwide. Ninety percent of pineapples consumed in the USA come from Costa Rica. It is known for producing one of the sweetest pineapples in the world!
It was a humid day in Sarapiqui as we hopped on the “Ananas Mobile” – a rickety wagon pulled by a tractor. We swayed side to side as we bumped through 1,800 acres of fields filled with the spiky leaves bearing a prickly fruit in the center.
Pineapples are known as the “Queen of Fruits.” The top part of the ‘crown’ is a seed. Anywhere between 5,000-9,000 seeds are planted each day by hand. Each seed grows into a fully developed pineapple, which means there is only one pineapple per plant. It takes one year to grow a fully developed pineapple!
Pineapples are orchids, so it eats its food through its leaves, not the roots. They do not need too much water to grow. They only need about twenty inches of rain annually. Hot and humid weather is the best. After seven months, a new flower is produced which is the new fruit. Five months after that, a fully developed, sweet pineapple is produced.
The sugar content of a pineapple is measured in “brix.” There must be at least 13% “brix” to export a pineapple. Sunlight increases the sugar content. Extra sweet pineapples belong in MD2 group. They are exported to the U.S. when they are green and in a cool temperature of about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes two to three weeks to transport and by the time they reach the grocery store, they are perfectly ripe and ready to eat! That is when we buy it and make it into one of the cool recipes below!
Mareesa Ahmad is a member of the ChopChop Kid’s Advisory Board.