Most fruits become softer, juicier, and sweeter over time. You may be accustomed to waiting a few days for fruit to ripen on your counter before eating to enjoy the sweetest fruit. However, pineapples work a little differently.
Surprisingly, pineapples will not ripen any more after they have been picked from their stem. Pineapples do soften over time after picking, but the starches will stop converting to sugar and the fruit will not increase in sweetness without the use of specific storage methods.
The structure of the pineapple plant helps us understand the pineapple’s unique ripening process. If you have an unripe pineapple, there are a few tricks you can try to sweeten the fruit even after picking.
Why Don’t Pineapples Ripen After They Have Been Picked?
The ripening process involves converting starches to sugars inside the fruit. The more starches that are converted to sugar, the sweeter, softer, and juicier the fruit will be. Many fruits continue this process after they have been harvested, but not pineapple.
Pineapple gets its supply of starch from the stem connected at the bottom of the fruit. When the pineapple is picked, it is cut off from all the starch, so it can’t make any more sugar.
Pineapple farms try to harvest their pineapples at peak ripeness, but it can be hard to tell the difference between fruit at maturity and full ripeness. If you leave the pineapple growing for too long, it could over-ripen and spoil. Unfortunately, some pineapples are harvested before they are fully ripe.
What Happens if you let a Pineapple Ripen on the Counter?
Although we know that pineapples will not ripen after they have been picked, they do still change. If you leave a pineapple on your counter for a few days, the fruit will get softer. The texture will improve, but the sweetness will not change. Pineapples stay the same level of sweetness from the day they’re picked until the day they are eaten.
If your pineapple was underripe when it was picked, it may be helpful to wait for the fruit to soften and become a more palatable texture.
However, you do not want to leave your pineapple on the counter for more than a few days. Whether the pineapple is underripe or perfectly ripe, it will begin to rot after a week or so. The slight softening that happens in the first days can quickly turn to brown rotten spots.
You can never be sure how long the pineapple has been in the store after it was picked, so it is best to eat your pineapple as soon as possible. If you will not be able to finish your pineapple within the week, you can freeze it to maintain freshness. To learn how to freeze pineapple correctly please read our article: Can Pineapple Be Frozen
How to Pick a Ripe Pineapple
Since the pineapple will not ripen any more after you bring it home, make sure you are picking a pineapple that is at peak ripeness. Ideally, all the pineapples at the store will be ripe, but that is not always the case. Here are a few signs you can look out for to determine if a pineapple will be sweet and ripe.
Ripe pineapples usually have these characteristics:
- Large: When pineapples are left to ripen on the stem, they grow in size as well as sweetness. If there are any unusually small pineapples, leave them alone. They are probably underripe.
- Heavy: When you pick up the pineapple, it should feel slightly heavier than you might expect from its size. This indicates that the pineapple is full of soft, juicy fruit. A pineapple full of juice is heavier because the liquid weighs more than the dry and tough fibers of an underripe pineapple.
- Orange or yellow coloring: Ideally, the whole pineapple should be yellow with just a few green tinges. During some times of the year, this bright coloring can be hard to find. If it seems like all the pineapples are mostly just green, pay attention to the base. Choose the pineapple with the most orange or yellow coloring around the bottom of the fruit. If the pineapple is all green, all over, it is not worth buying because it will likely never get sweet or soft. If you see any brown spots on the leaves or skin, it is likely rotten.
- Firm texture: When you squeeze a ripe pineapple it will feel firm, but not hard. The skin should be slightly supple, but not show any indentations. You can also lightly tap the pineapple and listen to get an idea of the texture, just like a melon. It should sound slightly hollow, rather than solid. A solid sound means that the fingers are still dense and lacking juice.
- A sweet smell: Smell the pineapple at the bottom of the fruit where the stem was cut. It should smell like a sweet pineapple. A lack of smell indicates that it is underripe. A sour or fermented smell indicates that the fruit is either overripe or rotten.
How to Ripen a Pineapple at Home
If you happen to have an underripe pineapple already at home, here are a few things you can try to increase the sweetness level. You won’t be able to actually ripen the fruit, but you can create similar effects by following these tips.
- Store your pineapple upside down. You may have to prop it up with the counter wall or place it in a pitcher or vase. Starch that was being converted into sugar was coming from the stem, so sugars may be concentrated at the bottom of the fruit. Balancing the fruit on its leaves with the stem side at the top allows gravity to put in some work. The sugar can then distribute throughout the whole fruit to sweeten it all evenly.
- Store your pineapple with other fruits. Specifically, with fruits that produce ethylene which is a gas that aids in ripening for many fruits and vegetables. Bananas are a common example of ethylene production, but apples, peaches, and avocados are also great.
- Store your pineapple in a bag. Putting the pineapple in a plastic or paper bag with an ethylene producer traps the gas closer to the pineapple. Unfortunately, pineapple is not very sensitive to ethylene so it will take a lot to make a difference. Using the bag method gives you a higher concentration of ethylene. Many ethylene-producing fruits are also very sensitive to ethylene, so you may cause your banana or apple to become overripe. Make sure you are using a fruit that you don’t mind losing.
For more information on ripening a pineapple fast please check out our article: How To Ripen A Pineapple where we show you how easy it is to ripen your pineapple. But ultimately there is nothing better than growing and picking your very own pineapple from your garden. We show you how easy it is in this article: How To Grow Pineapples
Pineapple is such an amazing fruit, especially when it is in season. But what if you have too much pineapple to eat before it goes bad? Can you freeze it? Find out in this article.
Pineapple is a wonderful treat for a sunny spring, hot summer, or even in the winter when you want to feel like you are somewhere tropical. When buying pineapple at the store though, you will often...