When I think of foods to eat during the summer, one flavor rises to the top of my list: pineapple. The aroma of the tropical yellow fruit reminds me of warm days by the pool, or of having my toes buried in the sand and the feeling of sun rays toasting my shoulders.
The pineapple plant, which is native to Brazil and Paraguay, is thought to have been transported by Indigenous people throughout South and Central America, and Native Caribbeans would place pineapples at their doorways to welcome guests. Spanish colonizers brought the fruit to the Philippines, and it was later farmed in Guam, Hawaii and Malaysia, according to the book “Fruits of Warm Climates” by Julia F. Morton.
Today, pineapples remain a symbol of hospitality in architecture and hotel designs. Each one takes about three years to grow, and the majority are grown in Southeast Asia.
To pick a good pineapple, choose one with fresh, green leaves on the crown, and a firm body. It should not be rock-solid nor squishy to the touch when lightly squeezed, and the base should have a sweet pineapple scent. If there is no scent, it is underripe; if it smells sour or fermented, it’s overripe.
Pineapples don’t continue to ripen once they are harvested, so it’s best to buy one ready to eat. If using within two days, a whole, uncut fresh pineapple can be stored on the shelf; otherwise, refrigerate until ready to use.
There are several ways to prepare a pineapple, depending on how you plan to eat it. If you’re making a dish you’d like to serve in the pineapple itself, as a shell—like Pineapple Shrimp Ceviche—slice the fruit in half lengthwise, then scoop out flesh to clear space for the filling.
For pineapple slices or wedges, cut off the crown, then slice off the exterior peel of the fruit and the prickly, inedible “eyes.” Turn the pineapple horizontally and cut 1-inch slices for wheels; cut each wheel into quarters for wedges.
A third option is to use some creative cutting to retain what many say is the sweetest part of a pineapple: the outer edge, just under the peel. Here’s how to separate it from the eyes: Run a chef’s knife down the sides of the pineapple to remove the peel and expose the eyes—but not cut them out—before chopping off the base of the fruit and twisting off the crown. You’ll notice that the eyes actually line up on a diagonal, all the way around. To easily remove them but salvage the surrounding sweet flesh, run a paring knife down each side of the eyes to create a V-shaped channel that follows the diagonal, and remove. Repeat with each line of eyes.
Because cooking when it’s already hot can make a warm apartment feel even more tropical, here are some pineapple dishes to make this summer that either don’t need to be cooked or don’t require turning on the oven.