The pineapple’s top or crown should look vibrant, not wilted. “If the leaves are brown, loose, or falling out, that means it’s old,” says Dellerman, a third-generation citrus farmer who started growing pineapple in 2002.
So, there’s no peak season for pineapple—and no bad time to eat it, whether you’re using it to glaze your Easter ham, tucking it into a cake for the holidays, or adding it to a fruit salad.
If you don’t plan on eating the pineapple right away, set it out on your kitchen counter. Over the next two or three days, it will start to turn golden, which again, psychologically, does wonders for us cynics. But if a pineapple turns brown, you’ve kept it too long. “The acids decline to the point where it just tastes. yuck,” Crane says.
Okay, so you’re never going to have a more delicious pineapple than one cut straight off the stem in a sunny field in Costa Rica (where most of the pineapple we eat comes from, according to the USDA). But the next best thing, the ones at the supermarket, are pretty tasty and yes, ripe. I pressed Crane and Florida-based pineapple farmer Mark Dellerman for more tropical fruit real talk. Here’s what they said:
When you’re ready to cut into it, Crane and Dellerman both suggest popping the pineapple in the refrigerator to chill for a bit. They say it just tastes better cold.
Turns out, those pineapples that I think are too green to be sweet are “more than horticulturally mature. They’re ready to eat,” says Jonathan Crane, a tropical fruit crop specialist at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“Once it’s taken off the plant, it’s not gaining any sugars,” Crane says.
But a pineapple will change color from green to golden, and it’ll soften over time. That’s the fruit’s natural ethylene at work. Refrigeration slows down that process considerably, which is why commercial producers ship the fruit chilled and stores keep them cold until ready to display.
Nor do you want fruit that feels spongy or has soft spots, which signals it’s been damaged or is already on the decline.
Tips on how to tell if a pineapple is ripe, when to eat it, and how to store it.
Fresh ripe pineapples should have green, fresh-looking leaves in a small, compact crown, and a leaf should be easy to remove if fully ripe. Once again, the nose proves to be a powerful tool in determining ripeness.
Once trimmed and cut, be sure the pineapple is covered in juice in an airtight container, refrigerate and use within five to seven days. Let the fruit return to room temperature before eating to improve flavor.
Canned pineapple is available in slices, chunks, crushed, and juice. It takes three pineapples to produce one can of sliced rings. The fancy grade comes from the sweeter bottom portion of the pineapple. Soaking canned pineapple in cold water for half an hour will remove some of the metallic flavors.
Once the fresh pineapple is cut from the plant, it will not ripen any further, so forget about letting it ripen on the counter. Without any starch reserves to convert to sugar, it will simply begin to rot and ferment.
Many grocery stores stock fresh pineapple and will peel and core it on demand using a simple machine. If you do not have the benefit of your grocer’s machine, use a sturdy, sharp serrated knife to cut off the base and the crown. (Save the crown and try growing your own pineapple at home.)
The peak season for fresh pineapple is from March to July, but it is available year-round in most markets.
Freshly cut pineapple can be frozen in juice or syrup, but it will lose some flavor. Peel, core and cut into chunks. Place in airtight plastic bags or covered containers with their natural juice and freeze up to 6 months.
Storing at room temperature will increase the acidity level of the pineapple, but will not improve sweetness. You can extend the lifespan to three to five days by refrigerating the whole pineapple in a perforated plastic bag.
Slice off the skin in a downward vertical motion, following the natural curvature of the fruit. Be sure to slice far enough in to cut off the eyes, which are woody or dig out the eyes with the knife tip or the tip of a peeler. To preserve the escaping juice, trim the pineapple on a platter. Don’t discard those skins just yet. They will still hold some juice which you can squeeze out. The center core of the pineapple is tough and fibrous. It is usually trimmed away before using the remainder of the pineapple flesh.
Fresh pineapple is quite perishable. Learn how to select the proper pineapple for your recipes and how to store it.