Pineapples have the shape of a pinecone and can reach up to 30 cm in length. They have a rough, waxy, hexagonal-patterned rind that is covered in small, soft spikes and topped with a compact grouping of narrow, green, pointed-tipped leaves that extend upright. The rind can range in color from green to yellow or reddish-orange when ripe. The flesh varies in shades of white or yellow, depending on the variety, and modern cultivated varieties are known to be seedless. The loosely fibrous and juicy flesh offers a sweet flavor with mild acidity, while the edible core is firmer, more leathery, and less sweet.
Pineapple is a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, as well as some iron and calcium. The pineapple’s core contains high levels of an enzyme called bromelain, which is said to be an effective anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, and digestive aid. Bromelain even has chemicals that have been shown to interfere with the growth of tumor cells.
Pineapples can be used raw or cooked. To prepare the pineapple for use, cut off the top and the base, stand the pineapple upright and slice away the skin in a downward vertical motion. The core can be left in or removed depending on preference, though it is edible and can even be pressed for juice. Raw pineapple can be eaten as is, and can also be juiced or pureed for smoothies and fruit cocktails like a pina colada. Fresh pineapple can be roasted, grilled, or baked for desserts, including pineapple upside-down cake. It can also be cooked and sweetened as a topping for custards and cheesecakes. Try dicing and pairing fresh pineapple with tomatoes, herbs, and chilies for a salsa to accompany seafood. The enzyme, bromelain, contained in pineapples helps break down proteins, and hence, pineapple juice is often used as a marinade for meats, especially pork. Fresh pineapple is highly perishable, and if kept at room temperature, it should be eaten within a couple of days. Store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life by up to 5 days. Fresh, cut pineapple can be covered in its natural juice and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, or frozen for up to about 6 months.
Pineapples are available year-round, with a peak season in the spring and summer months.