Even though pineapples are considered a fruit (and a fruit generally comes from trees — unless it’s a berry), pineapples actually grow on a plant close to the ground. Each pineapple plant bears exactly one pineapple. So where did pineapple come from in the first place?
The History of Pineapples
Most of us think of pineapples as coming from Hawaii, but that's not the case. Pineapples are a member of the bromeliad family, which is indigenous to the Americas (mostly South America), but has been found in Africa as well. By far the most famous plant in the bromeliad family, pineapples were first brought over to Spain by Christopher Columbus in 1493.
The pineapple — which is no relation to pine trees or apples — got its name through the combination of the Spanish "pina" (so named because it reminded them of a pine cone) and the English "apple" (so named because of its sweet taste).
Back in Europe in the 17th century, pineapples were grown in greenhouses and were a symbol of opulence and wealth, only adorning the banquet tables of the very rich. Fast-forward to today, and pineapples are everywhere.
How did it make this transition? A tropical fruit, pineapples symbolized the exotic world, and would often be brought home to North America by sailors from their South American journeys. But even into the 1800s, a pineapple was still a novelty to most Americans. It was not until the mid-1700s when Capt. James Cook introduced the pineapple to Hawaii and finally in 1903, when James Drummond Dole started canning pineapple, that the pineapple become readily accessible to Americans.
How to Grow a Pineapple
So how exactly does a pineapple grow? Pretty easily, actually. A pineapple starts and ends as the same product — that is to say, you need a pineapple to grow a pineapple. Pineapples don’t really have usable seeds, so pineapple plants start from the pineapple itself, or more specifically, from the leafy top.
In a tropical climate, a pineapple head can be placed directly into the ground. In less tropical climates, pineapples can be planted into pots inside your home. Yes, you can actually grow your own pineapple! Here’s a great video on how to do it.
Just be patient, though. Once the pineapple head takes root, it’ll take two to three years before it starts bearing fruit. It’ll grow to be almost 4 feet high by 4 feet wide. Once it has matured, a large flower will grow in the middle of the plant and eventually be replaced by a pineapple itself. Once the pineapple is harvested, a new fruit will grow in its place the following year. A lot of work for one pineapple.
So, if you decide that route isn't for you, you can buy one instead. When you’re in the supermarket and picking a pineapple, make sure to look for one that’s plump and firm, and one with leaves that are fresh and green.