Pineapple is a perennial herb, with best production months falling between October and April and the slowest production months between May and August. Pineapples are produced in regions with hot summers and cool frost-free winters.

The plant grows about 90cm tall. It bears 30 to 40 stiff, sword-shaped waxy leaves clustered tightly around a thick fleshy stem.

As a tropical plant they need a lot of sunshine and usually grow best in hot and humid climates.

In some regions, chemicals are put into the soil to kill harmful roundworms (called nematodes).

It is grown by planting suckers which grow from the mother plant or from the tops of other pineapples. In South Africa suckers are planted by manual labour. The plants require a well-drained subsurface soil, regular fertilization (mainly with nitrogen and potassium).

The use of leave and soil analyses for fertilization purposes is already an established practice in the industry.

Wide strips of asphalt-impregnated mulch paper are laid out on top of the well-cultivated rows, and propagating material is inserted through holes punched in the paper. This method not only control weeds, but also conserves soil moisture and moderates temperature extremes.

When the plants are one year old the flowering begins. The flower buds are small and a reddish- pink colour and looks like a pine cone. Then follows the purple-flower phase. Although flowering occurs naturally only at certain times of the year, artificial induction of flowering with chemicals, called “forcing”, may be done at any time if the plants are mature enough. This permits scheduling of planting and flowering so that harvests can be spread throughout the year.

Moisture condenses on the leaves of the plants and the droplets run down the root structure, making growth possible in relatively dry seasons.

Higher levels of sunlight and warm temperatures favour the accumulation of sugars in fruit, with the sweetest fruit being harvested during the warmer months. Fruit that matures in the cooler months, have a somewhat lower sugar content and a higher acidity content.

The pineapple takes up to 18 months to reach full maturation and grows best in temperatures between 15°C to 30°C. To ensure they are picked at their peak of maturity for ripeness and flavor, the sugar content of pineapple is tested in the field using a refractometer measuring the Brix%.

Pineapples are picked by hand, packed into crates and taken to sheds where they are handsorted according to size and colour. They are then packed into cartons (for the fresh produce market or export) or crates (for direct selling to processing plants or certain wholesale groups). Cartons are palletize and transported with trucks.

Sunburn of the fruit is one of the biggest hazards during summer months. Among the diseases for pineapple plants the most serious is black spot and black heart, primarily in winter, and yellow spot virus and soft rot in summer and autumn. Insect pests include nematodes, mealy bug, white grub and scale.

Queen pineapples are inspected and tested continuously on the local and export markets to ensure the highest level of quality and consumer safety – contributing to the pineapple staying one of the most exquisite fruit in existence.

Other uses

Various parts of the plant are used to make cattle feed, meat tenderizers and medicines. The leaves contain a strong, white silky fibre which in the Philippines and Taiwan is used in the manufacture of string. This string is very strong and used in fishing nets. In the Philipines, people weave the fibres of the plant into a cloth called piňa.

Where are its seeds?

Pineapples eaten today are different to wild pineapples.
A pineapple is known as a compound fruit – it is made up of several sections all stuck together to make a bigger fruit. Each section has its own seeds buried beneath the skin in sacks. If you peel a cultivated pineapple, you can sometimes see the vaguest hint of the seeds that a cultivated pineapples’ “ancestors” would have had. In the past, someone must have found a pineapple without seeds that was managing to reproduce itself. This pineapple would have been produced accidentally by nature, but because there are no seeds, each pineapple has more fruit and is therefore more valuable to us. Eventually, seedless pineapples became the major type of pineapple and today, pineapples with seeds are very difficult to find and is mostly found where cross pollination takes place between different varities planted in close proximity of each other.