Edible Peace Patch Blogs

Check out our other blogs here: http://peacepatch.org/blogs.htm

Monday, June 16, 2014

Edible Peace Patch Featured Plant No 2: Prickly Pineapples!

Welcome to the second posting in a series called the 
Edible Peace Patch Featured Plant
Check out the post on the first featured plant, the papaya. The second is also one of the all-time favorites among the children who visit the schoolyard gardens...

Pineapple (Ananas, Nanas, Pina)
Ananas comosus

The pineapple is a bromeliad (belonging to the family Bromeliaceae). It has a short, thick stem and a rosette of long, waxy leaves that are serrated on the edges. The plant starts off small, but can grow to be 2-6 ft tall and 3-4 ft wide. The fruit is oval to cylindrical and can be up to a foot long and 8 lbs heavy. It's what botanists call a multiple fruit, meaning it forms when many smaller fruits from separate flowers fuse together around a common center. The fruit has a tough, scaly rind, and the color of the ripe flesh can be any shade between white and yellow. 

See the individual purple flowers above each scale? Notice the sharp spines on the leaves, too.
Growing Conditions: 
The plant grows best in tropical climates with well-drained, sandy loam soil. The Pinellas county peninsula has sandy soils and a zone 10 micro-climate suited to growing pineapples. But our soil tends to be basic and lacks organic matter. Before planting pineapples, amende the soil so that it has a pH 4.5 to 6.5 and plenty of organic matter. Fertilize the plant with nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Plant pineapples in a sunny spot that drains well. They are very drought-resistant, but need plenty of water to successfully grow and produce fruit. Plant them 12 inches apart, preferably in the summer time. 

You can cultivate pineapples a few different ways: 
1. Plant the crowns, the top of the fruits: The easiest way to grow pineapples, but it takes a long time before the plant matures and bears fruit. Peel off the leaves at the bottom, let the crown dry a few days, then plant it about 2 inches deep. You can do this with your leftover pineapple tops.
2. Plant the suckers that grow at the axils (where the leaves meet the stem): One of the preferred methods of propagation. Sometimes you can get the crown to send off suckers if you leave the crown on the ground in a moist, nutrient-rich area (ex: next to your compost pile). Just toss the pineapple top on the ground, wait until a sucker grows, then take off the sucker and plant it!
3. Plant the slips that grow from the stalk below the fruitOne of the preferred methods of propagation
4. Plant the rattoons that come from the portion of the stem that is under the ground. A less successfully and more invasive form of propagation.

Planting pineapple crowns at Campbell Park Elementary schoolyard garden. 
The pineapple plant is indigenous to Paraguay and Brazil. It was spread by the local Indians up through South and Central America and on to the Caribbean islands. Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans to taste the fruit when they landed on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493.They spread the fruit to rest of the world, mainly because the sailors decided to carry it along with them for protection against scurvy (a disease caused by the deficiency of vitamin C). The pineapple gained popularity in Renaissance Europe, particularly among the royalty who could afford the exotic, sugary delicacy. In colonial times, the pineapple was such a coveted table decoration, that households actually rented the fruit to include it in evening party centerpieces...The pineapple industry is now worldwide, and has gained some attention for the unsustainable cultivation of the fruit. But sustainable growing practices do exist, including methods like we employ in our schoolyard gardens:

Hank adding to the Sanderlin Pineapple Patch!
What's so special?
  1. Fresh pineapple is low in calories. 
  2. Its flesh contains no saturated fats or cholesterol
  3. It is rich source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber like pectin.
  4. Pineapple fruit contains a proteolytic enzyme bromelain that digests food by breaking down protein. Bromelain also has anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that consumption of pineapple regularly helps fight against arthritis, indigestion and worm infestation.
  5. Fresh pineapple is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C. Vitamin C is required for the collagen synthesis in the body. Collagen is the main structural protein in the body required for maintaining the integrity of blood vessels, skin, organs, and bones. Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body fend off infectious diseases, scurvy and pro-inflammatory free radicals.
  6. It also contains small amount the antioxidants Vitamin A and beta-carotene. These compounds are known to have antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is also required maintaining healthy mucus membranes, skin and vision. Studies have suggested that consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids helps the human body to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  7. It is rich in B-complex vitamins like folates, thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and minerals like copper, manganese, and potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids and helps control heart rate and blog pressure. Copper is a cofactor for red blood synthesis. Manganese is a cofactor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, a very powerful free-radical scavenger (http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/pineapple.html).

Personal notes
It takes a patient person to grow a pineapple. In the gardens I've worked, it's taken an average of 2 years after planting for pineapples to start to flower, and then it can be another 6 months before the fruit matures and ripens. Get suckers and slips from friends whenever possible, because these tend to grow faster than crowns. 

Until next time, 
Save your pineapple tops!

Garden Program Coordinator

No comments:

Post a Comment