On the Azores islands, located in the mid-Atlantic ocean, one of Europe’s only regions produces 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 pineapples’ production and cultivation with a fruit grown in a tropical, sunny locale where this exotic fruit would fit in with its natural environment. In the early 1800s, the Azores, Australia, Hawaii, and South Africa began to grow pineapples for commercial export purposes, 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 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, a delicate, time-consuming fruit, takes 2-3 years after planting 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, using greenhouses being implanted to safeguard the cultivation of this now ‘national fruit’ to the region. The cultivation of fruits and vegetables in the Azores has always been a thriving industry throughout the region’s history, with occasional periods of boom and bust being shared due to the irregular weather patterns that affect these Atlantic islands. 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 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. Most notably, Sao Miguel is on these small islands, where many fortunes were made exporting this exotic fruit to various European capitals in the 19th and 20th centuries. The increased production from Costa Rica and South America has caused pineapples’ prices to vary depending on size, location, and sweetness. Many factors affect the quality of a good pineapple. If the temperature gets too cold, the pineapple will grow to be sour, whereas if the weather is too hot, the pineapple will be too sweet. There is a delicate balance needed in all aspects of the pineapple’s growing phases. 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 a fantastic 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 memorable 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 exceptional fruit as their main ingredient. This 4th generation family-owned and operated farm has steadily increased 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. During the economic downturn that hit the region in the 1970s and early 1980s, the cost of cultivation and the time required to produce a fully ripe pineapple made it very hard for many smaller pineapple producers to remain operational. The resilience of the Arruda pineapple plantation and the family members’ determination to keep the pineapple as a cultural icon for the region that the family-owned business overcame the economic downturn and turn the Azorean pineapple into a must-have fruit for anyone visiting the area. If you want to bring a pineapple back with you from your trip to the Azores, then you are in luck. It is widespread 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 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.