St. John Flora: Pineapples

pineapple flower
the first pineapple flowers emerge

St. John pineapple fieldI’ve been cultivating pineapple slips in my garden, not only because they produce a deliciously sweet fruit, but also out of frustration with iguanas. It seemed that every time I started an edible plant an iguana would discover it even as a small sprout and finish it off. Pineapple plants, however, are tough and spiny right from the start and not desirable to iguanas and that is how they came to dominate much of the area of the garden.

I know of two ways to propagate pineapples. One is to cut off the crown of a mature fruit and plant it and the other is to plant a slip that comes off a parent pineapple, much like the way bananas are propagated. Grown from the crown, it could take as much as three years to produce a fruit, whereas pineapples grown from slips might bear in less than a year.

Ever since I initiated the pineapple project, I’ve been waiting to see that first sign of the pineapple flower emerging from the center of the plant, and this morning I was rewarded with the first signs that I’ll should have a good pineapple season this summer.

An interesting thing about the pineapple is that it is not one fruit, but rather a cluster of individual flowers that fuse together.

After bananas, the pineapple is the most popularly consumed tropical fruit, with an annual worldwide production of more than 19 million tones (39 billion pounds), but there is a dark side.

Commercial growers on the average use almost 18 pounds of particularly nasty pesticides for every acre devoted to pineapples, which potentially could adversely affect the health of pineapple workers, who are notoriously low paid, as well as contaminating nearby water supplies.

My pineapples are grown without pesticides, but picking them is no picnic as anyone who has ever had a close encounter with that tough spiny plant can testify.

On the good side, pineapples are a great source of viamin C and manganese and are if you get organically grown pineapples, which are available from local farmers here in the Virgin Islands, they are tastier and sweeter than the commercial varieties and potentially provide anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits as well as providing antioxidant protection and immune system support.

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