Latin name: Ananas comosus
Uses: fruit, juice, dried

Pineapples are one of the world’s most popular fruits. Fresh, dried, canned, or juiced, they’re enjoyed alone in or in combination with other fruits in fruit salads, smoothies, and cocktails. They’re sold as street treats in tropical regions worldwide, sometimes with lime juice, chili powder, or other toppings, and combined with ham they define the flavor of Hawaiian pizza.

Why is pineapple healthy? 

Packed with vitamin C and manganese, pineapples also contain many antioxidant flavonoids and phenolics that may help prevent chronic illnesses like arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Bromelain, an enzyme in the fruit, aids in digestion and may also boost the immune system and speed recovery from injury or surgery. Bromelain also prevents gelatin from gelling, and it can be used as a meat tenderizer, making pineapple juice popular in marinades.

What does pineapple taste like? 

Intensely sweet and juicy, with an almost floral perfume, pineapples are a quintessential tropical fruit. They contain vanillin, which gives vanilla its famous flavor, and several compounds that contribute characteristic notes to apples, citrus, caramel, coconut, and even onion. This last one may surprise you, but it helps explain why pineapples make such good salsa.

Where does pineapple grow? 

Pineapples are native to the Brazil-Paraguay border area. Through travel and trade, Tupi Indians carried them throughout Central and South America, including parts of the Caribbean, and the Portuguese and Spanish then spread them to tropical regions around the world. Today Costa Rica, Brazil, the Philippines, and Indonesia combined grow about a third of the world’s 30 million tons of pineapples every year.

How do I prepare pineapple and what do I pair it with? 

If they’re fresh and ripened on the plant, there’s honestly nothing better than eating them straight, preferably on a beach, and letting the juice run down your chin. Pineapples’ exuberant fruitiness pairs beautifully with many other fruits, especially bananas, oranges, mangoes, and strawberries. Don’t sleep on trying it in spicy salsas, where its sweetness and acidity handle chile and cilantro with aplomb.

It meshes seamlessly with coconut to form an all-time classic flavor combination, and with the addition of some rum — sugar cane products being another great match — you’ve got a piña colada. Once you’ve cut up and eaten the fruit, save the peels and core for fermenting into tepache, a drink popular in Mexico.

Surprising fact: 

Because of the expense involved in transporting them back to Europe in the years following colonization of the New World, wealthy hosts would welcome guests with the fragrant fruit — showing both the host’s status and their esteem for the visitors. As a result, pineapples quickly became symbols of luxury and hospitality. This is why you will still often see pineapples depicted on door knockers and welcome mats.