and where pineapples come from…
Here’s the backstory:
Scott’s sister and brother-in-law, Heather and Jim, invited us — along with four other friends — to join them in Costa Rica for a week of swimming, sunning and funning. And Jim could arrange for a private tour of a pineapple plantation. How could we say no???
Of all the fun activities, I think I was most excited for the tour of the pineapple plantation. (I know, I’m weird). The drive to Upala was along a two-lane (and sometimes one-lane) twisty road that took us through bustling towns, tiny little villages and into fog-shrouded mountains.
By the time we arrived at Upala Agricola, it was definitely time to stretch our legs. The group followed Jim into the main building and we were introduced to our guides, Luis and Gabriela .
Gabriela explained that Upala Agricola, was founded in 1996 and cultivates both conventional and organic pineapple for export. Then she took us to the fields.
This is a big operation — but a very efficient one. Upala Agricola is the largest employer in the region. No surprise there.
Each plot is labeled with a marker, identifying when the fruit was planted and how many specimens are growing there among other things.
We watched as an enormous tractor slowly pulled a moving assembly line of pickers and packers, going row by row to harvest a staggering amount of pineapple.
By now, our group was dying for a taste. Quicker than you can say “ninja,” Luis unsheathed the blade of his machete and made quick work of slicing through the prickly skin to reveal juicy golden flesh.
A few more deft cuts and he had merchandised the uber sweet fruit for our sampling. OMG!
A pineapple right off the plant is nothing like what we get in the supermarket. This sweet, tangy fruit actually tasted like coconut – or pina colada. It wasn’t as acidic as what we’ve come to expect in pineapple. And I think I know why. Gabriela explained that the moment the pineapples are picked, they are ripe and ready to be eaten. Now. Not two days from now. Not a week from now. Now!
In fact, they pick these pineapples when they are green. Which goes against everything I’ve ever known to be true about when a pineapple is ripe. I’d always heard they should be more yellow than green. And the leaves from the spiky top should come out easily. It’s all bunk! If the skin of the pineapple is golden – the pineapple is old. You heard me!
Gabriela demonstrated how they use a refractometer to measure the sweetness of the flesh. This little device actually determines the mineral:sugar ratio of the plant cell protoplasm. (And you thought this was just a food blog.)
The fruit goes through a gentle bath before being surveyed for any damaged or unsaleable items (which go into another bin to make juice), then they are sorted based on their size.
This fruit is picked, processed, packaged and at the docks ready for shipment in less than 24 hours and it can be in your supermarket in as little as 3-5 days, depending on the final destination. Incredible.
A special thanks to Gabriela for the wonderful tour and for surprising me with my very own machete! Wow! Don’t mess with me!
And now, back to our regularly scheduled post. If you’re looking for some inspiration, this pineapple sorbet should do the trick. It’s tart and sweet. I can virtually guarantee brain freeze! You’re gonna love it!
Want more food related travel? Check out the 2018 Fancy Foods Show, this visit to the Biltmore and a primer on Parmigiano Reggiano, food tours in my home town of Boca or my gustatory tour through Paris.
- 1 2-3 pound ripe pineapple
- 1 lime juiced
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
make simple syrup
- In a small saucepan add the sugar and water. Heat to boiling and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.
- Trim the pineapple top and bottom. Cut away the prickly skin, slice the pineapple into quarters, vertically. Cut away the core and discard. Cut the pineapple flesh into chunks and transfer them to a heavy duty blender (like a VitaMix). Add the simple syrup and lime juice. Puree until smooth.
- Refrigerate the pineapple mixture until well chilled (about 2 hours).
- Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Sorbet will be soft, but ready to eat. For firmer sorbet, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze until firm, at least two hours.
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