Early Caribbean Explorers discovered that if a pineapple was set outside an island village, then visitors were welcome. Slaves probably brought the pineapple as a symbol of welcome to the southern United States, and the symbol has flourished ever since.
Pineapples are carved into the columns of stately homes, into the columns of stately beds, into gates, and are used on many different fabrics and crockery. No self-respecting Southerner would think of leaving fresh pineapples out of their Christmas decorations.
Edible pineapples (Ananas comosus) are in the Bromeliad family. Many bromeliads are epiphytic, meaning that their roots cling to trees and take their nutrition from the air. Some in this family, like the pineapple, grow in soil.
It is possible to grow your own pineapple, even if you live where the winters are frigid. You can get a pineapple to thrive in a pot. And, this is one case where you can have your fruit and eat it too.
Purchase a pineapple with a good-looking green leafy top. It’s okay if the tips are brown. It is often impossible to find a totally green top after the long shipment and lay about in the grocery store.
When you’re ready to prepare your fresh pineapple, grab the base of the leaves near the top of the pineapple (Careful, the leaves are spiny, you might want to wear gloves.) and twist until you can twist it out, just as if you are unscrewing a lid from a jar.
Peel off the bottom leaves to expose the bottom one-third piece of stem. Lay the prepared stem on paper towels and let it dry out for 4 or 5 days. Then it will be ready for potting.
You can purchase a bromeliad potting mix, or you can mix one up using orchid bark, perlite, charcoal, and peat moss. Choose a pot that is quite small, one that is deep enough to plant the naked stalk up to the leafy top. The leafy top of the pineapple should overhang the sides of the pot. If it won’t stand up, just sink the small pot into a larger pot and surround it with stones or gravel to hold it upright. Set it in a brightly lit area.
Bromeliads have a vase shape center in order to catch and hold water. Because of this, Bromeliads are watered differently than regular plants. Watering the center of other plants could quickly rot out the growing tip. Not so with bromeliads. They need water in the center portion to thrive. Water your pineapple in the middle of the top and at the root area. When you feed it, use a water-soluble fertilizer, either organic fish emulsion or a chemical fertilizer – your choice mixed at half strength-, and water the leaves, the top, and the root area.
Since the pineapple grows best in humid tropical regions, it will grow best in your home with daily misting to raise the humidity. Once the pineapple top shows new bright green growth, it’s time to move it into a little larger pot.
It will also flourish if you move it outdoors during the summer months, after the temperatures reach 60° day and night. Be sure to acclimate it from indoors to outdoors by slowly moving it into a sunny situation for just a few minutes a day, increasing the time spent in direct sun. Just like you, it will sunburn unless you bring it into full sun slowly, over a matter of days. Move it back indoors before the temps fall below 55°. You will need to supplement the light in order to get it used to the dimmer indoor conditions again.
As your pineapple plant gets larger, be sure to move it into bigger pots. After 3 years, if it is a happy plant, you very well could have a pineapple fruit on a stalk above a substantial size pineapple plant, growing in a 5-gallon container. Pineapples have a very interesting flower. You can tell they belong to the bromeliad family when this blue on red flower spike appears. When you look at a pineapple fruit, you can distinguish just how the flower stalk looked. The outer segments were flowers; the inner core was the stalk.
Once the pineapple blossoms and sets fruit, the mother plant will die. Before hand, she should be putting out some little pups at the base of the plant, which you can remove and pot up to start the whole process over again. Harvest the pineapple you’ve grown and use it in one of Chef Linda’s yummy recipes.
Another interesting pineapple tidbit: If you’ve ever added fresh pineapple to a gelatin dessert you learned that gelatin will not set up with fresh pineapple in it. Pineapple contains an enzyme, which is used as a tenderizer. This protein-eating enzyme is another reason why it makes a good meat marinade. It doesn’t just add flavor, but also helps to tenderize meat. It digests protein, and that’s why it cannot be used fresh in gelatins.