How many times have you cut into a pineapple, only for it to be pale yellow, dry, and painfully tart? To add salt to the wound, pineapples are one of those fruits that stop ripening as soon as they are harvested.
But I’ve had a pineapple go soft and yellow on my counter! you say. OK, heard—but that color and texture change is actually not an indication of the same climacteric ripening that apples, bananas, and melons undergo. Pineapples can change color and grow soft with time, but it will only be as sweet as it was the day of harvest, green and hard. So: All the more pressure to pick a good one.
You wouldn’t pick stem-and-leaf mandarins or strawberries with dry, fragile, sad-looking leaves, would you? The same rule extends to pineapples. Green, taut, sprightly leaves are a good indicator for how old that berry is (yep, it's a berry—you heard it here first) and how long it’s been sitting around. A leaf plucking cleanly from the crown is not, itself, an indicator of sweetness—just that the fruit itself has been recently lopped off the plant.
The eyes of a pineapple are the round, circular segments that make up the skin. Look for pineapples with relatively large, round rounds—not small, or uneven ones. A pineapple with small, tightly packed eyes is an indicator of immaturity.
While there are a few different varieties of pineapples out on the market, know that they largely come in one of two shapes: round or tubular. If your market offers a round variety (like the “queen”) reach for an extraordinarily spherical #boi, as that shows that the flesh has developed and matured equally, and so should make for an even distribution of sweetness. If tubular (like the “cayenne”) pineapples populate your market, the sentiment is similar—look for pineapples with rounded, evenly developed bodies.
Shop the Story
What are your tried-and-true visual cues for picking a good, ripe pineapple? Tell us about it in the comments.
Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga.
When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.