March 2nd, 2009
La piña. The symbol of hospitality. Stoner movie title. And the recent favorite fruit in my house. Yea, yea. I know. So much for keeping it local. But it’s still winter here (a snow storm is on the way!), which means rough times for fruit. And if we go somewhere tropical where pineapple is indigenous, Isaac won’t be with us! Plus, with Isaac’s palate still developing–and pickiness intensifying–I’m happy for him to eat as wide a range of flavors as he’ll accept.
I realized pineapple was a hit with Isaac after giving him a Trader Joe’s Pineapple Fruit Bar. I tried giving him other flavors, but only “pie-nipple” (which sounds great in public) would do. From there I moved him on to fresh pineapple. He’s eaten it before, but it had been a while and I wanted to see if the love affair would sustain in the absence of a fruit bar’s concentrated sweetness. It did! So it was time to dig deeper–what’s the scoop on this tropical fruit?
What’s the scoop on pineapple?
Pineapples aren’t just popular in my house. Apparently, they are the second most popular tropical fruit in America (banana is the first). But as delicious as these stately, prickly-skinned fruits are, we never get the good stuff. Here’s the problem: once harvested, pineapples will not ripen any more and a fully ripe pineapple is too fragile to ship. The pineapples we get at our supermarkets never reach their full sugar content potential. But they are still delicious, especially if you know how to pick one out.
Choosing a pineapple
According to the Guide for Choosing a Ripe Pineapple published by the NY Times:
Ripeness is indicated by a bright yellowgold color on the skin that at the very least should be present on the eyes around the base of the fruit. The stem end of the fruit has the highest sugar content and is the ripest portion. The higher up that yellow color goes, the more evenly a pineapple will be flavored. That color, plus a pleasant, mild pineapple aroma at the base are the best guides to ripeness.
The surface of the pineapple should be firm and gently yielding to the touch. The ability to pull a leaf from the crown proves nothing about ripeness, despite the enduring popularity of that myth.
Once you choose a pineapple, it’s time to cut it. Check out How to Cut a Pineapple for detailed how-to’s.
Why is it good for you?
Pineapple contains the protein digesting enzyme mixture called bromelain, a natural anti-inflammatory that encourages healing. Some also believe that bromelian helps aid digestion. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, pineapple is also a source of:
Manganese and B1 (thiamin) are both important for energy production and antioxidant defense. Vitamin C provides antioxidant protection and immune system support.
So, you’ve made your pick, you’ve cut it up, you know it’s good for you… time to chow down. My favorite way to eat pineapple is roasted, especially when I find I’ve not chosen as perfect a specimen as I thought. Roasting softens the fruit and concentrates the sweetness. Not as much as a Trader Joe’s fruit bar, but even better if you ask me.
Cardamom Roasted Pineapple w/ Yogurt
(can be served to children 10+ mos*)
1 fresh organic pineapple, peeled, cored & cut into 1/2″ slices
1/4 cup organic whole milk yogurt
1/2 tsp organic agave syrup, optional
cinnamon to top
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees while prepping the pineapple.
2. Place pineapple in a baking dish. Sprinkle with sucanat and cardamom. It’s hard to say how much since pineapples vary in size and it also depends on how sweet & spiced you want yours to be. I tend to do a light but thorough coating of sucanant and about 1-2 teaspoons of cardamom–just enough to get a hint of flavor. If you need to create more than one layer of pineapple, coat each layer individually.
3. Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees until juices thicken into a nice, natural, syrupy coating. If your pineapple wasn’t very juicy to begin with, you may need to add a little water or juice mid-way through cooking to ensure that the fruit doesn’t dry out.
4. Depending on how sweet your pineapple turns out, you may want to sweeten the yogurt you use to top off your roasted fruit. If so, simply mix the yogurt with the agave syrup.
5. Top roasted pineapple with yogurt and sprinkle with cinnamon.
*From Wholesome Baby Food: Though not a citrus fruit, pineapple can be acidic. Processed pineapple tends to be less acidic due to the processing and sugar/syrup that it’s packed in; but we’re sure you’d rather not give pineapple out of the can! If your baby does not have any food intolerances and has shown no propensity to getting rashes due to foods, then you might give it a try around 10 months old. Many parents do feed their little ones pineapple around 8 months old.