Pineapples are perhaps the most extra fruit. They’re covered in spiky hairs and a diamond-shaped pattern, their leaves are so extravagant they’re basically wearing a crown, and they’re bright, and yellow when you cut them open—the definition of doing the most. There’s nothing wrong with this high level of extra (my preferred level, TBH), but it can make it hard to tell which pineapples are good and which aren’t. When there’s so much going on, how are you supposed to know what to look for?
Despite pineapple’s overwhelming exterior, there are a couple really obvious ways to find what you’re looking for. Here, Heith Banowetz, produce team trainer for the Whole Foods Market in Venice, California, tells SELF everything you need to know to pick the absolute best pineapple every time.
First, get to know the different kinds of pineapples.
According to Banowetz, while there are four different varieties of pineapples—Smooth Cayenne, Red Spanish, Queen, and Abacaxi—the only one you’ll really see at the supermarket is Smooth Cayenne. He says the reason for this is because it has a smooth (like its name!) low-fiber texture, and a juicy flavor without a lot of acidity—it’s a crowd pleaser. Plus, he adds, “it also slices and cubes well for consumption.” Basically, it’s perfect for any of your pineapple needs, whether that be blending the fruit into a smoothie, chopping it into a sweet salsa, or cubing it for spicy fruit and meat skewers.
As for those other varieties, Heith says it’s very rare to see them sold at most supermarkets these days, though he does mention that Hawaii Whole Foods locations carry many different kinds. That includes the Sugarloaf, a Kauai-grown pineapple that’s named for its potent sweetness and low acidity. It’s so delicious, you won’t want to do anything but eat it in its natural state.
You can use color to tell if a pineapple is bad.
Banowetz says you’ll want to start your pineapple search by checking out the bottom of the fruit. If it’s green or yellow, it’s worth checking out, but if it’s brown, skip it, he says.
Both green and yellow pineapples can technically be ripe, so you’ll need to rely on your other senses to find a good one.
Unlike a lot of the other fruits and vegetables, if a pineapple is green, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unripe, says Banowetz. When pineapples are harvested, he explains, their sugar levels are tested, and if they’re optimal, they’ll be harvested regardless of the exterior color. “There is no reliable link between external color and sweetness,” he says. That means there can be both green and yellow pineapples of equal sweetness at the grocery store.
That makes things a little tricky, especially since we’re used to being told that things that are green are unripe, as is the case for bananas and avocados. So rather than using your eyes to spot a perfect pineapple, you’ll need to use two other senses: smell and touch.
“A ripe pineapple should smell sweet and be firm when squeezed,” Banowetz explains. “Avoid pineapples that are too soft or smell fermented,” in a way like kombucha or beer.
Pineapples don’t get sweeter after they’ve been harvested, but they do get juicier
Pineapples don’t continue to get sweeter when they’ve been picked like peaches or bananas do, Banowetz explains. However, he says they will get softer and juicier the longer they sit on your counter. In general, he says that greener pineapples will be firmer than yellow ones—they’re not riper in terms of sweetness, but they are in terms of texture. So, if you want to eat your pineapple right after you get back from the grocery store, you’ll want to grab one that’s already yellow and soft. If you would rather wait a couple of days, or just aren’t sure when you’re going to use the pineapple, he says you’ll have better luck buying a harder, greener pineapple, because it’ll get softer in a few days, rather than going completely bad like a yellow one might.