Pineapples can be incredibly tasty! But it can also be extremely difficult to know when they are at their best and tastiest. Given that they ripen long after they are picked, when they arrive on our shelves and at our market stalls it can be a problem for us to work out whether they are ready to be eaten and enjoyed to maximum effect.
There are, however, signs to follow, so here’s how to make sure you get a nice, sweet, juicy pineapple every time.
Look at the Color
Look for pineapples with an overall yellowish hue
This is important in terms of determining ripeness. Too green a pineapple indicates that it is still far from being ripe. The yellowing indicates that the ripening process has begun and that the sweetness of the fruit is stronger.
Having said that, it is not a simple visual test alone that can tell you about ripeness. Some types of pineapple do not always yellow on the outside as much as others, and yet they are still ripening nicely and are likely sweet inside. It is ultimately about using a variety of factors to assess whether the fruits you are going to buy are ready to eat.
Check for any darkening green patches or brown spots
These can be quite tricky to work out. On the one hand, overall greenness tends to indicate that the pineapple is not yet ripe. However, if you see brown patches amid the green, then this can indicate that ripening is indeed taking place. When you see a pineapple like this you are going to want to pay attention to its texture, to work out to your satisfaction whether it is still very hard, or whether the flesh is softening. If it feels very firm, then it will need a few more days to ripen fully.
Generally, yellow means ripe
Generally speaking, the more yellow a pineapple’s skin is, the riper it is and the more flavorsome it is likely to be. This is the easiest rule of thumb to use when trying to determine whether the fruit is ready to be enjoyed to maximum effect.
Feel the Skin
Gently press on the skin of the pineapple
Touch and feel matter with pineapples. Though their skin can be quite tricky to assess, given their texture, you should still be able to determine if the flesh is softening. Ideally, you do not want to buy a very firm pineapple, as this means you will have to wait for it to ripen at home, and that could take at least a week, as pineapples are quite slow-ripening fruits once they are out of the heat they grew in.
You are best feeling a degree of pliability, or flex, in the skin. If it squeezes in a little, you are probably buying a pineapple that has begun to ripen into the sweet phase.
Importantly, make sure you press in a few areas, so that you have a feeling of consistency across the whole fruit. If you squeeze in one spot and it is softer, but the rest of the fruit is still firm, that probably means the fruit is bruised at the soft spot and is best avoided. In addition, if it is too soft all over, avoid it. That means it will have become overripe and you will not get the full flavor of the flesh, as it will have begun to turn mushy inside.
To summarize this point, if the pineapple yields slightly to pressure under your thumb, then it likely means that the fruit is ripe and ready for eating. But just take care to assess the overall fruit.
Ripening at home
Remember that, as with most fruits, the longer a pineapple stays on the plant, the softer it gets. If your supermarket is importing pineapples too soon, you may find that many of the fruits in your store are not ever on the shelf in a ripe state. If you are ripening tropical fruits at home, remember that they can take quite a long time to reach their peak taste. Whereas other fruits might become overripe by sitting at home for two weeks in our kitchens, a pineapple will likely still be fine.
If you are planning on using the pineapple soon after you buy it, or are serving it at an event, do just be aware that a green one will not be at its best and will need home-ripening, possibly for over a week. It can take longer than you might wish for that golden yellow to come!
Smell the Pineapple
Use your sense of smell to gather information
In fact, smelling the bottom of the pineapple where the stem was is a good method of assessing how ripe the fruit is. A nicely ripe pineapple should have a sweet aroma. In fact, it is often one of the most aromatic fruits, even when uncut.
If, however, there is no smell, or an unpleasant smell, it almost certainly means the pineapple isn’t ripe. If the smell is a little bit tart or acidic, then you are best to choose another fruit whose scent is sweeter. The ripe pineapple will usually smell faintly of the core fruit itself. It is one of those fruits whose scent is a sign of ripeness.
Pick Up the Pineapple
Lift the pineapple off the ground or counter
Weight is also a useful way to assess ripeness.
Generally speaking, the heavier the fruit, the riper it is. As a fruit ripens, it increases in weight, and so the more full the fruit feels the more likely it is that the ripening process is underway.
The juice content of a ripe pineapple is greater than that of an unripe one, and it is a sweet juiciness that we want in our fruits.
If the leaves are still on the fruit, then a ripe fruit will have its leaves easily fall away. One that is still unripe will have quite robust leaves that do not come away so readily. Having said that, if a fruit feels too heavy, it may be that it is overripe and the flesh has liquefied too much, turning to juice or water.
Balance these factors
Selecting ripe pineapple can be a bit difficult. But if you remember the following summary hints, there is a better chance of making a good choice. Until you get used to it, you may need a bit of trial and error, but if you follow this advice, you will make better choices and have a very good chance of getting a tasty, sweet fruit.
- Look for a nice yellowing in the flesh
- Check the flesh has a bit of ‘give’ in it and that it flexes to the touch
- Make sure the fruit is at a good weight – not too heavy, not too light
- Check the scent of the fruit to ensure there is a light, sweet aroma coming from it