(How to Prepare a Pineapple, step-by-step photos in post)
I can't think of a single fruit I don't adore. That includes the odd ones, the misshapen or unheard of, and even the ones most people don't know are fruit, like tomatoes and avocados. One of my favorites, however (and I don't choose favorites lightly) is the pineapple. I don't know what it is - the play of sweet and sour, the acidity of it tingling over my lips, or the truly unique flavor you just can't find anywhere else.
It all started with a brief but whirlwind obsession with the television show 'Psych' - a comedic detective series starring the perceptive, and deceptive, psychic Shawn Spencer. Started at first as a joke, a pineapple makes an appearance in nearly every episode, hidden somewhere amid the scenes. Because of this, the fruit quickly became the show's emblem. I remember pointing out pineapples everywhere I saw them, both on TV and in reality, and eventually I began buying (and eating) them in absurd quantities.
This happened to take place the very same summer that I was experiencing my worst-ever allergies. It was hot, and the air was thick with pollen... but with the increase of pineapple in my diet came a notable decrees in sneezes, runny noses, and itchy eyes.
After a couple weeks of eating the fruit on a daily basis, I stopped taking my allergy meds.
The pineapple (Ananas Comosus, or 'very fine fruit') is actually the fruit of a Bromeliad plant. Native to Brazil and Paraguay, it has long been used in holistic medicines as an anti-inflammatory for things such as joint pain and arthritis; to break up and reduce mucus caused by colds or allergies; or as a digestive aid because of its naturally high content of bromelain - an enzyme that helps break down and absorb proteins. Not to mention, it's a fantastic source of vitamin C and Manganese, among other vitamins and minerals.
While some allergy supplements already use extracts of bromelain in their products, studies are still being done to determine just how effective this fruit can be, with concerns that the enzymes may break down too quickly during digestion.
Pharmacology and science aside, all I need to know is that it's TASTY.
(Note: The possible benefits of pineapple only apply to fresh fruit. Canned pineapple has been pasteurized (heated to a very high temperature to kill bacteria), and when the fruit is cooked it loses much of its nutrients and enzymes.)
Now, the jury is still out on whether this works with any certainty - especially for those with particularly heavy allergies - so I'm not saying it will do the trick for everyone. In fact, some people are allergic to pineapple itself, so to those I say, stay away! But if you're a fan of fresh, juicy pineapple like I am, this is one home-cure I highly recommend trying.
(Fun tip: the pineapple is considered a bit of an international 'welcome fruit', as it became associated with sailors returning from far-away voyages.)
How to prepare a fresh pineapple
First, find yourself a ripe pineapple.
Pineapples grow from the bottom (where the stem connects) up to the leaves, so they will always be the most ripe at the base.
You want a pineapple with a fair amount of yellow - this will be most noticeable at the base, but the higher the yellow rises the riper the fruit is. If the pineapple is all green, it is under-ripe.
Squeeze the pineapple gently - it should be very firm, but not rock hard. It should give very slightly under pressure, but if it's at all soft, spongy, or sticky, than it's gone bad.
Most importantly, give the pineapple a sniff near the base. It should smell sweet, and, well... like a pineapple. If there's little or no smell, than the fruit isn't ripe yet. If it smells fermented, or like vinegar, it's over-ripe.
Note: it is a common misconception that a pineapple is ripe when a leaf can easily be plucked from the top. This is not true! If leaves can be pulled from the fruit, it is rotten.
Now that you've got the perfect fruit picked out...
Using a large serrated knife or bread knife, slice the pineapple in half width-wise. Working with one half at a time, remove the top (or bottom) by slicing down at an angle on either side of the leaves (or base).
Using a sawing motion, slice away the tough outer skin. Once the skin is removed, slice the sweet and tender fruit from the tough, fibrous core.
(Alternatively, you can use a pineapple corer (reminiscent of a large donut-puncher) to press down the center of the fruit, removing both the core and skin. All gadgetry aside, though, a knife works just fine).
This stiff center shoot is harder and less sweet than the rest of the fruit, and is always removed, typically. However, if the fruit is at peak ripeness, some don't mind the chewier midsections, and will simply divide the fruit whole. While the stalk may be less appealing, it may also contain a higher content of nutrients. The choice is yours.
Slice and serve as is, or use in cooking, baking, or dessert making.
What's your favorite way to eat a pineapple?