Growing this exotic fruit may seem like a job for a pro but the fact is that pineapple is one of the easiest fruits to grow for new gardeners.
Originating by the Parana-Paraguay River in Brazil, pineapples reached the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, where they were cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs. Discovered by Columbus in 1493 around the Caribbean islands, pineapples spread around the world by the 16th century. Back then, they were a luxurious treat and a symbol of prestige and social class. Today the fruit is widely cultivated around the globe.
Pineapple is actually a cluster of many flowers which grow into fruits and fuse together around the core to form the sweet and tangy delicious fruit, which is also called ‘Ananas’. The name Ananas comes from Tupi word ‘nanas’ which means ‘excellent fruit’ – and that seems to describe this exceptional fruit quite accurately. In Spanish it is called ‘Pina’ and the English named it Pineapple – which describes its visual similarity with pine cone.
Each tiny fruit has an ‘eye’, the rough spiny marking on the pineapple’s surface. Colours vary from green, brown, yellow to red skin. The crown also displays colors that change with the varieties being considered. The prickly long leaves can be blue-green, pink-green or yellow-green. Although, the fruit turns sweeter when fully ripe, the fruit around the base is usually the sweetest. Pineapples have yellow flesh and a very vibrant tropical flavor, which makes then one of the most popular fruit for desserts.
Pineapples can grow peacefully in a corner of your garden for years without requiring help or attention. In any case, it is better to forget about them after planting – especially because they will bear fruit in two years. Once that does happen, of course, it will be fruit that you will never forget!
Plant a Crown
Starting your plant from a cutting is the easiest and fastest way to grow pineapples. Begin by buying a fresh, fully ripe pineapple from the store. Look for the one with healthy growth. Some dry leaves can be ignored. Remove the crown by twisting and pulling it or by simply chopping it off with a knife.
Next, remove all the fruit from the bottom, if any, and the bottom leaves, so as to reveal the stalk. Now, place the crown in open air under the sun where it will ‘cure’ or dry out. This will help in avoiding rot and disappointment!
Prepare a Pot
Pineapples like to grow in well-drained soil that is not too acidic. The plants will also grow in poor soil. I like to grow my pineapples in a soil mix with equal parts of soil, compost or manure and peat moss. This forms a mixture that is light in weight, mildly acidic and well drained.
Take a 10-inch pot and fill it with the soil mixture. Plant the crown in the pot by inserting the crown gently in the middle of the pot, at least 2 inches deep. Make sure there are no leaves under the soil, otherwise it will rot and that may kill the plant.
Water softly and leave it in full sun. Remember that over-watering will kill your plant but a little dry spell will not.
Fruit of your labour – treat yourself to grilled pineapple two summers from now
Continuing care and harvest
Once the crown begins to grow a new leaf, soon it will run out of space to grow in a pot. You need to make one transplant after 6 months or a year. Prepare an 18- or 20-inch pot in the same manner. Wear gloves to carefully remove the plant from its old pot in such a way that the roots and soil remain intact. Quickly, place it in a hole in the middle of the new pot that fits the roots. Your plant will grow beautifully in this pot until it fruits.
Pineapple plants will bloom when they have 32 leaves. This usually takes two years but it is worth the wait. When the plant it ready, it produces a small flower from the center of the plant, that slowly grows as the stalk gets bigger. Flowers appear usually in early to mid spring and mature into a fully ripe fruit by mid to late summer.
Each plant will produce one fruit only, but soon after the harvest, new baby plants emerge from the bottom of the parent plant, which can be removed and planted again.
Tip: Start a plant or more in the first year and then plant more the second year. Plants from the first year will bear fruit in the second and the ones from the second year will bear fruit in the third. You will also automatically get new plants each year which will ensure a continuous supply for many years to come!
How to pick the best-tasting fruit – at a store or otherwise
Search for pineapples that are heavier than they look. There is no difference in quality between a small pineapple and a large one. Fruits should be free of spots and bruises. The dark ‘eyes’ indicate that the fruit is over ripe. Pineapples stop ripening after they are picked from the stalk. Look for fruits that are equally coloured and smell sweet and fresh. Do not buy the ones that smell sour or fermented. Pineapples can be left at room temperature for a day or two but this will not make the fruit any sweeter. They do tend to perish quickly and must be refrigerated – for up to five days.
A single cup of fresh pineapple is loaded with nutrients and offers 105 % vitamin C, 77 % manganese, 20 % copper, 11 % vitamin B6, 11 % vitamin B1 and 7 % foliate besides other nutrients.
A single cup of fresh pineapple offers more than 100% of Vitamin C that is needed in a day. This makes pineapples excellent for skin health and collagen production. Vitamin C makes the immune system stronger and helps in recovering from ailments ranging from a mild flu to cancer. Besides vitamin C, pineapples are also rich in other antioxidants, including vitamin A, beta carotene and bromelain. This delicious fruit is also loaded with more than 70 % of the daily requirement of manganese, which assists in bone health, growth and repair.
This perfect fruit improves oral and eye health, boosts immunity and improves blood circulation. It helps prevent arthritis, cancer and heart disease. Moreover, it reduces inflammation of joints and muscles, heals wounds and reduces risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Home-grown pineapple needs special recipes to make the most of your harvest. Be it a healthy smoothie breakfast, a healthy stir-fry or a mouthwatering grilled wrap, pineapple becomes a star of many a dish. Pineapples are among the world’s favourite ingredients for dessert. The fruit freezes really well and can be turned into a soothing Popsicle very easily!
Here are some recipes that you will love:
Grilled Pineapple starter:
One of the best things that you can do with your home grown pineapple is to grill a 1-inch-thick slice on a grill pan with a splash of butter. Drizzle some honey on top before serving.
Take one part fresh pineapple juice, 1 part coconut cream and 1 part ice, blend it twice to make a perfect serving of super-refreshing pina colada!
Zahra Ali is a sustainability educator, writer and environmentalist. She blogs at cropsinpots.pk. Send in questions about gardening to Zahra@cropsinpots.pk
Originally published by The Friday Times http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/grow-your-own-pineapple-in-a-pot/
Zahra Ali Husain is a sustainability educator, freelance writer and an environmentalist. She is also a co-founder of Organic City Pakistan and runs the Green Schools & the Horticulture Therapy programs along with Yasir Husain. Zahra also manages an organic farm.