One of the things Hawai‘i is famous for
is its pineapple production. Pineapple is a delicious fruit
and is known worldwide for its sweet taste. The fruit was first
called “anana,” a Caribbean word for “excellent
fruit.” Hawaiians called it “halakahiki,” which
means “foreign fruit.”
The pineapple, believed to have its origins in Paraguay or
Brazil, was loaded on trade ships and taken to distant places
India, Australia, and Mexico in the 15th and 16th centuries.
It is believed that the pineapple first arrived on the Big Island
of Hawai‘i in 1827.
As a result of a growing demand for labor on the various Hawaiian
plantations, such as sugar cane and pineapple, the import of
foreign workers started in the 1850s. These workers came from
China, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Germany, Portugal, Norway,
Spain, Scotland, Puerto Rico, and Russia.
The founder of Hawai‘i’s pineapple industry was Captain
John Kidwell, who tested a variety of pineapples and finally
selected the Smooth Cayenne in the 1880s.
James Dole, commonly known as the “Pineapple King,” arrived
in Hawai‘i in 1899. He started his first plantation in
Wahiawa a year later and built a pineapple cannery the following
In 1922, Dole bought the island of Lana‘i, where he established
the largest pineapple plantation in the world, growing 75 percent,
in its peak years, of the world supply.
Dole passed away in 1958. Today, his Hawaiian pineapple company
is still known worldwide as the Dole Food Company.
For immigrant workers, life on the plantation was hard. The
work day usually started at 6 in the morning and ended at
the afternoon. While in the fields, the workers had to wear heavy
protective clothing because of the sharp pineapple leaves. Even
though the work was physically demanding, the wages were less
than $20 a month. However, housing near the fields was free.
Have you ever asked yourself how pineapples are planted and
how long it takes for them to ripen? According to the Dole
in Wahiawa, pineapples in Hawai‘i are grown year round.
Each field has to be prepared beforethe fruit can be planted.
Preparation includes fumigating the soil and placing black plastic
mulch in the ground. The mulch helps to keep in the moisture,
confines the fumigant, controls weeds and pests, and stores heat
for a better root growth, according to Dole.
Even today, every pineapple is planted by hand. This is done
by digging a hole through the plastic mulch and placing the crown
of the fruit, the green leaves, into it. A skilled planter can
plant about 10,000 fruits a day.
A perforated tube placed between the pineapple rows irrigates
the plants, and a mixture of liquid nitrogen and iron sprayed
on the plant fertilizes them. It takes 18-20 months for a plant
to produce the first pineapple and about 13-15 months for the
second fruit. After the second pineapple is harvested, the field
is knocked down and a new cycle begins.
A ripe pineapple is one that has green leaves and a firm body.
A large pineapple doesn’t mean that it is riper or better
tasting. Also, the color of the outer shell doesn’t indicate
the state of ripeness, for even a pineapple that is green outside
can be ripe inside.
A pineapple won’t become sweeter or riper after being picked.
Therefore, it is best to eat a pineapple as soon as possible
after its purchase. If you plan to store it for a few days, it
is best to keep it in the refrigerator to preserve its freshness.
Farmers on the North Shore of O‘ahu were previously concentrated
on growing pineapple and sugar cane. Today, a variety of fruits,
flowers, and crops are grown for consumers in Hawai‘i,
the U.S. mainland, and abroad. According to the Pineapple Facts
Information Page on bouquetoffruits.com, “Hawaiian plantations
produce almost a third of the world’s crop and supply 60
percent of canned pineapple products.”
Hawai‘i’s agricultural industry plays an important
part of the state’s economy, for it provides over 40,000
jobs and generates almost $3 billion annually.
If you are interested in learning more about the pineapple
and its history in Hawai‘i, you can spend a fun day at the
Dole Plantation, located on Kamehameha Highway near Wahiawa.
There are a variety of attractions for visitors, such as the
Pineapple Express, the Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple
The Pineapple Express is a two-mile, 20-minute, fully narrated
train ride through the pineapple fields. “It was fun to
ride on that cute little train, hear the history of the pineapple,
and enjoy the beautiful scenery,” Lim said.
The Garden Tour is educational as well. In the different gardens,
visitors learn about a variety of crops and also about the plantation
villages with their contract laborers who came from all over
The Pineapple Garden Maze, created in 1997, was officially
recognized in the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records as
largest maze. It covers an area of more than two acres and has
a path length of 1.7 miles. The maze is made of 11,400 colorful
Visiting the Dole Plantation is free; however, there is a
fee for the three attractions described above. For information
the prices, visit the Web site www.dole-plantation.com.