I've got pineapples growing all around my permaculture garden, particularly as an understory in my food forest areas. They are protected there from frost, and this layering of plants helps to make best use of space. I love pineapple and so do my kids. They are really easy to get started (instructions below).
When I first discovered how pineapple grew, I was amazed. I grew up thinking fruit came from trees. This amazingly delicious fruit actually comes from a bromeliad - a low growing, quite prickly leafy plant. Pineapple is in fact the only bromeliad that is cultivated for food.
Pineapple is so versatile. It is great in savoury and sweet dishes, but certainly the best way to eat it is raw and freshly chopped.
Eating pineapple straight from the garden is so extremely delicious. It's no wonder it is one of the most popular tropical fruits in the world. Growing pineapple at home requires patience though. It takes 18 months to 2 years to get a fruit, so it's a good idea to keep planting new ones to have an ongoing supply.
Columbus took pineapple (Ananas comosus) from the West Indies to Spain 500 years ago. Back then in Europe, pineapples were a fruit only the wealthiest elite could afford - now massive monocultures mean that it has become the 12th most consumed fruit in the world.
I much prefer to grow my own or buy from local farmers because there are a few downsides of the pineapple industry. They are usually grown in large scale monocultures with high inputs and lots of chemicals. Globally, these monocultures are typically controlled by a handful of companies. In many parts of the world, large pineapple monocultures mostly employ migrant workers to plant and harvest. The environmental and human cost is high.
How to propagate pineapple (super easy!):
- take a top from a store bought pineapple
- remove any fruit flesh
- remove a few of the bottom leaves - you can see some tiny root tips forming there
- leave it for a couple of days so the stump dries out (and therefore doesn't rot in the ground)
- plant it in the garden or in a large pot
- when your pineapple ripens, harvest it, chop the top off and replant - the cycle continues
A diversity of uses for the pineapple plant beyond food...In a permaculture home and garden, pineapples have quite a few other uses besides food.
- water-harvesting: the leaves harvest water and make the little reservoirs
- habitat creating: these water reservoirs create habitat for invertebrates
- can create a prickly border to keep animals from an area
- soil protection as an understory crop in heavy rain areas
- medium quality roughage for ruminants (https://www.feedipedia.org/node/675) - green leaves and pulp
- pineapple waste from peeling and coring (30%) can be used in compost and worm farms to improve the soil
- indoor air purifier: place a pineapple in each room to removes new paint fumes and formaldehyde off-gassing
- turn fibre from leaves into handmade paper
- interestingly, pineapple leaves are now being developed into a type of leather too (http://animalsaustralia.org/features/pineapple-leather.php)