With its tuft of spiky, dusty green leaves and cross-hatched, golden orange skin, the pineapple has an unmistakable appearance. A single pineapple is, in fact, a collection of multiple diamond-shaped fruits, each one the fruit of an individual blossom.
Grown in the tropics, their juicy yellow flesh is sweet with an acidic tang and very fragrant. There are hundreds of varieties, ranging from those small enough to feed just one person, up to quite substantial sizes.
Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelin which breaks down protein, making it great in marinades or to tenderise meat or fish; but the same enzyme, in its raw state, prevents gelatine from setting, so don't, for example, try to make jellies with the raw fruit (though cooked is fine, as heat destroys the enzyme).
All year round.
Choose the best
Go for pineapples that feel heavy for their size, with no bruising or withered, brown leaves. A ripe pineapple should smell sweetly and strongly of pineapple. An additional test for ripeness is to pluck out one of the leaves - it should come away easily.
Slice off the leafy top, making the cut a little way down, so that you're cutting across the flesh (the leafy top can be used for decoration). Then cut a slice from the bottom, so that it can sit up on a cutting board. Using a long sharp knife, slice off the peel in broad downward strokes, taking off as many of the brown eyes as you can (any that remain can be dug out with the tip of a knife or a peeler). Then slice, as required, cutting out the tough core from the centre of each slice. To stuff a pineapple, cut in half lengthways slice out the core to make a trough.
At room temperature - a ripe one will keep for around 3 days. Whole pineapples shouldn't be stored in the fridge - but once the flesh has been peeled and chopped it's fine to chill it, stored in an airtight container.
Cut into slices or wedges and grill (4-5 minutes). Pan-fry (3-4 minutes). Use to make puddings, marinades, and salsas. Use in baking. Serve sliced with gammon, lamb or fish.