June 27 is National Pineapple Day!
Our first tour here in Maui was at the Maui Pineapple Company and Distillery! I would highly recommend this tour. Mom and I had a great time. The last time I had fresh pineapple was in Okinawa in 2002. After the tour you get a FREE pineapple per person so we have been eating a lot of fresh pineapple. Nothing compares to fresh pineapple or fresh fruits and veggies in general.
Maui Gold Pineapple is the only pineapple grove left in Hawaii. This was so interesting to see the farming process and to understand what all takes place to eat some of this delicious fruit. The best part of course is tasting the pineapple picked right before your eyes!
Here are some interesting bits of info we learned on our tour:
Pineapples are actually a composite fruit made up of berries that grow at the crown of the fruiting tree (more like a shrub).
Pineapples have a lot of great health benefits. For more information on their health benefits, check out http://pineapplemaui.com/pineappleshop/nutrition/
Generally they do not have a problem with pests or birds eating plants but deer have been an issue. The deer were introduced to the island in the 1950s. The deer love to eat the leaves of the baby pineapple which stunts the pineapple’s growth.
There are no hummingbirds here in Hawaii and they don’t want any. Hummingbirds would pollinate the pineapple causing seeds and would totally change the pineapple. They replant simply by using the spiky top of the pineapple once it is twisted off from the fruit. Costa Rica has a lot of hummingbirds and their pineapple has seeds.
The Pineapple Harvest
Once you plant the spiky top of the pineapple, it takes 2 years to harvest the first crop. They harvest 2 more crops with each crop becoming smaller in size and then they will turn everything under, let it go to grass and replenish the soil before they plant again.
Most of the workers are older and come from the Philippines. This is very hard work, they can make up to $40/hour if they plant about 6,000 plants a day. Everything is paid by the piece. There is an art to this planting and everything is done by hand from planting to harvesting with only a small amount of automation used with transporting and parts of packaging.
Until WWII pineapple was all planted, harvested, and shipped via hand and animals. After the War the Army left a lot of vehicles behind; the Hawaiians used those vehicles to mechanize the farms. Although planting and harvesting itself is still done by hand, packing, shipping and soil prepping is done by machine.
Maui Gold Pineapple are harvest into four categories:
- Hawaiian Consumption – Has more yellow color
- Mainland Export to LA and Seattle- has some yellow but mostly green
- Distilleries – solid gold
- Cattle – pineapples not acceptable for human consumption or distillation
Did you know that when you buy a pineapple from the store that it will not ripen any further once it has been picked? It is best to just eat it when you buy it as you don’t know how long it has been traveling. You can flick the pineapple with your thumb and if you hear a more hollow sound, that is the better option. You should twist off the crown, turn it upside down, place it in the refrigerator for 1 day and let all of the juices flow to the top of the pineapple. This way the sugar flows through the whole pineapple. This is what our guide suggested for the Maui Gold so I am assuming standard protocol for all pineapples. You should eat the pineapple within a day or so.
For more tips on picking the right pineapple, cutting and even how to grow your own, check out http://pineapplemaui.com/pineappleshop/tips-facts/
At Maui Gold they use Ozone water to rinse the fruit and start it on its packaging journey. Once the pineapple is immersed in the water it turns yellow. If any fruit sinks, it means it has bad spots and goes in the cattle consumption pile. They use a vegetable wax to seal the fruit and then it is packed based on size. You will have 5,6 or 7 box categories which basically just means you can fit 5 pineapple, 6 or 7 in a box. This is all done by hand.
Maui Gold is working to reduce waste and only has about 4% waste. They actually have their own distillation so be sure to do the spirits tour with the pineapple tour, the Maui Winery that makes pineapple wine (I can’t wait for this tour at the end of the week! so stay tuned for that post) and with a cattle company to feed sheep and cows. Some crowns and fruit go to Oahu for planting or fruit slices. Maui Gold Pineapples were basically saved because if they would lose the pineapples from Maui they would lose their line of spirits made with Maui Pineapple. Sometimes a company just needs new leadership to sustain itself.
Maui Gold limits its shipping to Hawaii or the West Coast, they ship to LA and Seattle. They want to leave it on the plant as long as possible and not compromise its quality by shipping too far. But never fear, if you want to try some amazing Maui Pineapple, you can order it directly from Maui Gold Pineapple.
If you are coming to Maui be sure to make this a stop on your tour. We did this right after we landed so we had time to eat the pineapple but you can always do it on your way home as the Maui Pineapple boxes don’t count towards your carry on!