Perfect Pineapple

Source: By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

It’s August and to many families, this means Back to School month. Making healthy food choices for your child is easier when they are right there with you, but now it is time to test his or her true ability to make decisions of their own.

Christopher Columbus was the first person to introduce pineapples to Europe. In 1493, he found pineapples while exploring the Caribbean Islands, He brought some back to Queen Isabella of Spain, who fell in love with the sweet tropical fruit. Europeans tried very hard to grow pineapples, but this effort was met with very little success. Pineapples require a tropical climate and are grown in Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, and China. Even though the pineapple was introduced late to the Hawaiian Islands, it now leads the world in production.

To the Carib, the pineapple symbolized hospitality, and the Spanish explorers quickly learned they were welcome if a pineapple was placed at the entrance of a village. This symbolism spread to Europe and then to Colonial North America, where it became the custom to carve the shape of a pineapple into the columns at the entrance of a plantation and onto the posts of beds in guest rooms.

As an international symbol of welcome, the pineapple is certainly a welcome member of the fruit family for its delicious taste and nutritional benefits. Pineapples are a good source of vitamin C, a commonly known antioxidant that protects the body from free-radical damage and boosts the immune system. Not only does vitamin C help fend off the colds and infections, but a recent study shows that vitamin C can help reduce the risk of gingivitis and periodontal disease, too.

Pineapples also contain high levels of an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory, and it can help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, sore throat pain, and reduce postoperative swelling. Additionally, the bromelain in pineapple helps break down the amino acid bonds in proteins, which promotes good digestion. Finally, pineapple is full of manganese, a trace mineral that is in very few foods. Manganese protects against osteoporosis.

Age to Introduce: about 10–12 months (puréed).

Note: Dried pineapple—Pineapple is the one dried fruit that is typically coated with sugar. Its sugar content is so high that you might as well be eating candy. We recommend reading the labels and avoiding the sugar-coated brands.

Toddler Treat: Pineapple Kabobs
This recipe is super easy and tasty. Make a platter for a party or make a few for your child's snack. Mini-kabobs look fancy and are fun to make—and even little fingers can help assemble them!

Pineapple chunks (½-inch pieces)
Marble cheese cubes (½-inch pieces)
Slices of ham cut into 1-inch squares

Assemble the mini-kabobs on a toothpick in the following order: ham square, pineapple chunk, ham square, and a cheese cube.

Veggie version: Substitute teriyaki-flavored baked tofu for the ham/cheese. Baked tofu can easily be sliced into small cubes and is very tasty with the pineapple.

Storage: Refrigerate before serving. Mini-kabobs do not keep well in the refrigerator for longer than 3–4 hours.
Pineapple for the Family
At the Market: Pineapples should be heavy for their size, well shaped, and fresh looking with dark-green crown leaves. Shells should be dry, crisp, and range in color from greenish-brown to golden brown.

There are four varieties of pineapples mainly in the market: Gold, Smooth Cayenne, Red Spanish, and Sugar Loaf. The Gold variety features an extra sweet flavor, golden color, and higher vitamin C content, but it is often twice the price.

Storage and Ripening: Refrigerate. Does not ripen after harvest.

Preparation: Cutting a fresh pineapple may seem a bit intimidating, but it is really quite easy.

Twist or cut off the crown. Cut pineapple in half and then into quarters. Trim off ends and remove core from center of each quarter. Using a paring knife, remove shell from fruit. Remove any hard eyes with the end of the vegetable peeler. Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Here are a few easy ideas to add pineapple to your meals:

Toss chopped or crushed pineapple in chicken salad. Serve in Boston lettuce leaves.

Serve a bowl of fresh pineapple as a side dish to BBQ meats and veggies. Or, even better, make a pineapple salsa by tossing chopped pineapple, onion, and cilantro with some lime juice.

Grilled pineapple is fabulous! To grill, use strips of pineapple about 1-inch thick or pineapple rings (about 1-inch thick). Brush both sides of the pineapple with olive oil. Place on a BBQ grill for 1–2 minutes per side. Serve warm.

Make a Hawaiian Pizza: Spread a pizza crust with pizza sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Top with ham and pineapple chunks. Bake.

For a tropical twist on drinks, pour pineapple juice into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop the cubes out and add them to other juice drinks or cocktails.

About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby ( ). They are the creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good, Clean Fun Placemats, available at many fine specialty stores and national chains, including Target and Whole Foods Markets.