The Van Trump Report

The History of the “Pineapple”… I Had No Idea 

I always wondered how and when they started growing Pineapples on the island of Hawaii. From what I had learned, the pineapple was indigenous to South America and is said to originate from the area between southern Brazil and Paraguay. It is believed that the natives of southern Brazil and Paraguay spread the pineapple throughout South America, and it eventually reached the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico, where it was cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs. Columbus encountered the pineapple in 1493 on the leeward island of Guadeloupe. He called it piña de Indes, meaning “pine of the Indians”, and brought it back with him to Spain. It is believed that the Spanish introduced it into the Philippines and eventually into Hawaii. 

It was actually this week back in 1813 that a note was written in a diary found in Hawaii that read, “This week I planted pineapples and an orange tree”. Historians believe the diary belonged to Don Francisco de Paula Marín and conclude that this is the first verifiable record of it being planted as a crop. Pineapple was not again noteworthy until 1849 to 1851 when some 21,000 fruits were transported from the Kona area of Hawaii to Honolulu and then to California after gold was discovered. 

did you know, the lifespan of a pineapple plant is 7 years? The first fruit is born only after the 2nd year. Every year thereafter each plant produces only 1 fruit. The long duration in which for them to grow is because it takes 200 flowers to develop into one fruit. That means every segment you see on the skin of a pineapple was once a flower. It then formed into a berry which then coalesced with other berries from the flowers on the same stalk to form the pineapple you see. 

Spoilage during shipment was a serious problem and losses were high because refrigerated shipping did not exist. As a result, there were infrequent small shipments of fresh pineapples from Hawaii to California between 1851 and 1903. Nicholas Appert published the methods for preserving meats, vegetables, and fruits in glass jars in 1810. A British patent on the preservation of foods in tinplated cans and glass jars was issued to Peter Durand, a colleague of Appert, and gave rise to the name “canning”. 

A canning industry was established in Baltimore in 1819 and by 1850, five canning companies existed that mainly processed oysters. However, until relatively late in the 19th century, canned commodities remained beyond the reach of all but the wealthy and government troops on campaigns, e.g., the American Civil War. John Kidwell is credited with the introduction of the pineapple industry to Hawaii; large-scale pineapple cultivation by US companies began in the early 1900s. Among the most famous and influential pineapple industrialists was James Dole, who moved to Hawaii in 1899 and started a pineapple plantation in 1900. The companies Dole and Del Monte began growing pineapples on the island of Oahu in 1901 and 1917, respectively. Dole’s pineapple company began with the acquisition of 60 acres of land in 1901, and grew into a major company, the Dole Food Company…. and so it began! 

Interestingly, in the 1980s, the two largest exporters of pineapple, Dole and Del Monte left Hawaii. It’s simply much cheaper to produce pineapple in Asia and South America. In 2009, Maui Land and Pineapple also shut down operations. Today, the state of Hawaii produces less than 10% of the pineapple sold worldwide. Hawaii, while the largest producer in the states, is only a small percentage of the world’s pineapple production. In fact, over +75% of the world’s pineapples now come from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. 

Many argue the absolute best pineapples in the world now come from Uganda – the Tropical Fruit Basket in Africa! If you are looking for the sweetest pineapple, experts say it’s the “Antigua Black”, grown primarily on the southwest coast of the island of Antigua. Its sweet flavor is a result of a specific type of soil and the right amount of rainfall, allowing the sugar content to be higher than in other pineapples. (Source: History; Wiki; Pineapple)

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