Ask Peter: Pineapple ripeness and a tangy raita recipe
Why are pineapples now presented minus their wonderful spiky topknots? This must be the only country in the world where this fruit is denuded, turning something that was once exotic looking into something that looks like a warty football. May I point out that we are now denied knowing if the fruit is ripe, by pulling the centre leaf out ... we will have square tomatoes next.
I’d say the reason is more one of keeping the price down for the consumer or the profits up for the importer – although I’m making this up as I type. I was wondering why on earth the spiky top would be removed (I’ve not noticed it here in London) and the only ideas I can think of are
a) You can fit more pineapples into a crate if you remove their top, which can be 60 per cent the length of the actual fruit – so you’d need less packaging – which must be a good thing.
b) By removing the top the exporter isn’t paying for fuel to freight it to you, the consumer – which must also be a good thing.
c) They cause less damage to soft-skinned fruit handlers (this might be too far-fetched).
d) There is less methane produced in New Zealand compost bins because there is less vegetation to deal with – which must be a good thing.
However, this is all my rationale and it assumes that the tops are cut off in the country of origin rather than in New Zealand by the supermarket or shop you buy them from.
If they are in fact freighted over here with tops intact, and then trimmed, then I think it’s completely bonkers and have to wonder why myself. I agree with you that the only way you can judge if a pineapple is ripe is to pull out the centre spike – so do we now assume that the fruit sellers will do this effectively and efficiently for us – or will it be a slow and steady decline into making us eat sour under-ripe pineapples from now on?
In the past I’ve bought a pineapple knowing it’ll need 4 or 5 days ripening – but I buy this in full knowledge of the ripeness of the fruit. I really don’t want to have to believe it when the packaging says “ready to eat” when in fact it’s often wrong.
Just think of avocados that you buy “ready to eat” when in fact they’re occasionally rock hard or black and rotten. Not edible at all. And what can you do if your pineapple isn’t quite ripe but you’ve already peeled it?
Make a tangy raita
I tend to cut the flesh from the core, and juice the core. Then I dice the flesh and toss with some chopped chillies, ginger, garlic and curry leaves and roast in a hot oven until golden all over, tossing as it cooks. It pays to line your baking tray with parchment as the high sugar content of the fruit will make it stick to the tray.
Bring the juice to the boil with some fish sauce or light soy sauce and reduce to a thick syrup. Mix into the pineapple and leave to cool then mix with some thick yoghurt or creme fraiche and lots of shredded mint or coriander and you’ll have a delicious fruity, tangy raita to dollop on grilled fish, roast chicken or pork chops.
See our step-by-step guide on how to peel and cut pineapple here.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to [email protected] and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.