On the Azores islands; located in the mid-Atlantic ocean, exists one of Europe’s only regions to produce the exotic, aggregate fruit known as the pineapple. On the island of Sao Miguel which in Portugal is referred to as Ilha Verde ‘the green island’ is home to the continents only pineapple plantations. It is common to associate the production and cultivation of pineapples to be that of a fruit grown in a tropical, sunny locale where this exotic fruit would fit in with it’s natural environment. In the early 1800’s the Azores, Australia, Hawaii, and South Africa began to grow pineapples for commercial export purposes all hoping to be the world’s leading pineapple producing region. On the island of Sao Miguel however; an island that receives a steady amount of rainfall throughout the year it became evident that it was not an ideal location to grow pineapples. The temperature needed for pineapple cultivation ideally should be between 65-90 degrees celsius; with limited cold periods. The pineapple, which is a delicate, time consuming fruit takes 2-3 years after planting for them to grow into a fully ripe pineapple. This did not stop the resilient Azorean farmers in their desire to produce this vitamin C rich fruit for themselves, with the use of greenhouses being implanted to safeguard the cultivation of this now, ‘national fruit’ to the region. The cultivation of fruits and vegetables in the Azores have always been a thriving industry throughout the region’s history with occasional periods of boom and bust being common due to the irregular weather patterns that affect these Atlantic islands. The use of greenhouses have eliminated many of the environmental factors that the islanders could not control otherwise and have allowed this sweet fruit to propagate and become a staple in Azorean culture and recipes for the last century. The many health benefits that were associated with pineapples and the fact that they were seen as a luxury, tropical fruit made this an ideal export for the Azorean merchants in the 19th century. The production of this high quality fruit for commercial export and regional consumption have long gone hand in hand in the Azores. It is on these small islands; most notably Sao Miguel, where many fortunes were made exporting this exotic fruit to various European capitals in the 19th and 20th century. The increased production from regions such as Costa Rica and South America have caused the prices for pineapples to vary depending on size, location and sweetness with many factors affecting the quality of a good pineapple. If the temperature gets too cold, the pineapple will grow to be sour, where as if the temperature is to hot the pineapple will be too sweet. There is a delicate balance needed in all aspects of the growing phases of the pineapple, and here at the Arruda pineapple plantation; which is located in the capital city of Ponta Delgada you can explore everything that has to do with Azorean pineapple cultivation. This is an amazing spot to come and explore the pineapple fields that have played host to botanists and agriculture lovers since it opened over 100 years ago. It was here in 1901 that Prince Albert of Monaco made his special voyage to explore the unique flora and fauna of the region and see how pineapples could thrive growing in greenhouses which is unique to the continent. There are pineapple tastings and a gift shop with countless locally produced products such as jams, juices and various desserts that all use this special fruit as their main ingredient. This 4th generation family owned and operated farm have steadily been able to increase their yields and production with the continued demand both domestically and internationally for the unique flavor that the Azorean pineapples produce. The preservation of this fruit is something to be noted. It was during the economic downturn that hit the region in the 1970’s and early 1980’s that the cost of cultivation and the time required to produce a fully ripe pineapple made it very hard for many of the smaller pineapple producers to remain operational. It was the resilience of the Arruda pineapple plantation and the family members determination in keeping the pineapple as a cultural icon for the region that the family owned business was able to overcome the economic downturn and turn the Azorean pineapple into a must have fruit for anyone visiting the region. If you want to bring a pineapple back with you from your trip to the Azores then you are in luck. It is very common to find at the local gift shops along the avenue or even at the airport pineapples for sale. The packaging and marking indicate that the pineapple is safe for travel and that it is produced in the Azores with all requirements needed to be safe to take abroad.
Azorean grown pineapples are not the only pineapples to be sold on the island so make sure you look for the ‘Marca Acores’ or the ‘Made in the Azores’ label to ensure you are getting a locally grown pineapple; from one of the worlds most unspoiled regions.