Is a Pineapple a Fruit or Vegetable?

We all know the delicious juicy fruit known as the pineapple, and while you have probably tried pineapple at some point in your life, maybe on a pizza, you probably don’t know that the fruit grows from a bush. But wait, is a pineapple a fruit?

By it’s botanic definition a pineapples is a fruit. The common pineapple, Ananas comosus, is a tropical fruit in the Bromeliaceae family. So a pineapple is scientifically considered a fruit, but what do other people that aren’t scientists think?

Is a Pineapple a Berry?

Instinctually you might laugh at this question, but botanically speaking, pineapple is a berry or rather several berries formed together! Because pineapple is a many-seeded fruit grown from the ovary of a single flower, its fruiting body is classified as a berry. 

In the case of pineapple, many smaller fruits fuse into the large, spiny fruit we are all familiar with. Each one of the segments on the skin of a pineapple, topped by a tiny spine was once its own berry.

A fruit that is made of multiple fused berries, like pineapple, strawberry, or blackberry, is called an aggregate berry.

Of course, there is more to a fruit or vegetable than how it grows. Not many people know the botanical facts of their food off the top of their heads. So, what is a pineapple?

Is a Pineapple a Fruit or Vegetable in Culinary Use?

In culinary use, a vegetable is considered to have a bland and/or savory taste and to be served as part of the main meal or a side dish during the main course. Fruits are labeled as having a sweet or tart taste and being served as part of a snack or dessert.

A pineapple definitely has a sweet taste and while it is served as a part of a main course at times, I’m thinking of Hawaiian pizza, it is served more commonly in desserts. A pineapple is most likely considered a fruit in culinary use.

What Does the Legal System Think?

Tomatoes have been argued as a fruit and as a vegetable many times and even  inside a court room, the Supreme Court even. Nix v. Hedden is the case where a tomato merchant went to court in the hopes that his import tax would be less.  The result was that the court recognized that tomatoes are botanically a fruit, but declared them a vegetable for other reasons!

The court came to this determination from two main reasons.  First, is that tomatoes were commonly referred to as vegetables in conversation between merchants, vendors, and customers.  Second, is that tomatoes were commonly used in culinary dishes the same way other vegetables are used and not as fruits are used.

So, I think it’s safe to say that if the same line of arguing was used to determine whether a pineapple is a fruit or vegetable the court system would rule that pineapples are fruits!

Horticulture of Pineapple

So, we know that pineapple is an aggregate berry botanically, but how is it grown? You might be thinking you’ve never seen a pineapple seed, and you are right! That is because modern pineapple cultivation is done by carefully propagating the parts of another pineapple plant including the crowns, slips, and suckers.

A pineapple bush takes 3-4 years to grow from seed and produce a pineapple. So, how do commercial farmers grow pineapple efficiently? The secret lies in propagating cuttings. 

While a pineapple bush only matures into a single flower and thus a single fruit, it also produces many offshoots which can be cut from the mother plant and grown to maturity. These offshoots produce pineapple much quicker, 15-22 months, making the farming process more efficient than growing from seed.

A pineapple plant seems to fall into a grey area on whether it is considered a fruit or vegetable in horticulture. In horticulture a vegetable grows on an annual and herbaceous (pliable green growth) and fruits grow as annuals and have woody growth, like fruit trees.

A pineapple is not really an annual or perennial and its growth not herbaceous or pliable. So this perspective ends with a question mark.

The Cultural Significance of The Pineapple

Pineapple is one of the first things that comes to mind when you say “tropical,” followed by coconut and lime. Not surprisingly, pineapple juice is a popular cocktail ingredient, best known for its use in Pina Coladas.

Interestingly, King Ferdinand of Spain declared the pineapple to be his favorite fruit after Christopher Columbus and his crew were able to keep only a single pineapple from rotting while traveling back from the Caribbean.

The king’s declaration caused the fruit to skyrocket in popularity within the Spanish aristocracy. Due to how difficult and expensive it was to transport, it was often simply used as a tabletop accessory to show wealth and status rather than eaten.

What’s the Dictionary Tell Us?

pineapple – the large edible multiple fruit of the pineapple that consists of the sweet succulent fleshy inflorescence

fruit – the usually edible reproductive body of a seed plantespecially one having a sweet pulp associated with the seed

vegetable – a usually herbaceous plant (such as the cabbage, bean, or potato) grown for an edible part that is usually eaten as part of a meal

merriam-webster.com

From these definitions the pineapple is clearly a fruit and not a vegetable by definition.

Interesting Facts About Pineapple

  • Pineapples are called ananas in the 26 most common languages other than English. 
  • The pineapple-based tropical drink the piña colada was not popular in the united states until 1979, following the release of the Rupert Holmes single Escape.
  • Dole, one of the leading cultivators of pineapple, built the world’s largest garden maze. It stretches over 2 acres and is pineapple-shaped.
  • If you are so lucky, pineapple nets you a minimum of 65 points in scrabble, assuming you build from an already placed “pin,” “pine,” or “apple.”
  • According to a survey of over six thousand U.S adults in 2021, 35% of Americans say they would not eat a pizza with pineapple on it.
  • Due to the protein dissolving enzyme Bromelain, a pineapple-derived debriding gel is used in burn wards to prepare the burn site for grafting.

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