TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Have you ever wondered what pineapple varieties you eat every day?
With a sweet and sour taste, the popular tropical fruit has more than 90 varieties in Taiwan, though eighty-five percent of the pineapples found in the country are golden diamond pineapples.
Originally from South American countries such as Brazil and Paraguay, pineapples were initially brought to Taiwan from China during the Qing Dynasty. Pineapples from Hawaii and Southeast Asia were later introduced when Japan colonized the country. Today, Taiwan’s own pineapple varieties dominate the market.
As pineapple is a tropical fruit, Taiwan’s combination of tropical and subtropical climate provides an optimal environment for them to grow. According to prominent pineapple researcher Kuan Ching-Shan (官青杉), areas south of Taichung are where most pineapples are cultivated. Pingtung County, Tainan City, and Kaohsiung City are the regions with the highest pineapple production in the country, he added.
The pineapples can be divided into imported breeds, such as the smooth cayenne, and ones Taiwan has developed, such as the Tainung varieties. The following are the features of common varieties in Taiwan.
Golden diamond pineapple
Golden diamond pineapple (Kaohsiung City Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Taiwan pineapple factory photo)
Officially named as Tainung 17, the golden diamond pineapple is the most grown and exported variety in Taiwan, with “the majority of products used for both direct consumption and processed food,” Kuan told Taiwan News. Factors contributing to its popularity include high quality, high sweetness, low sourness, thin fibers, and the absence of bite on the tongue, the expert added.
Additionally, golden diamond's very thin rind makes it easy to peel. Unlike most pineapple varieties, which are grown in the summer, golden diamond is grown in the spring, with an optimal production period between March and June.
Winter honey pineapple
Winter honey pineapple (Kaohsiung City Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Taiwan pineapple factory photo)
Officially named Tainung 13, the winter honey pineapple is grown in the winter, which is very rare. Kuan emphasized that as “a tropical fruit that requires heat to boost up its sweetness,” pineapples are mostly grown in the summer to reduce sourness. Winter honey pineapple has a smaller pulp, which makes it less cost-effective to grow.
Milky pineapple (Kaohsiung City Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Taiwan pineapple factory photo)
Unlike most pineapples, which are yellow in color, milky pineapple is named for its unique milky-white meat. It also differs from most varieties by having smooth and thornless leaves. Named as Tainung 20, milky pineapple’s optimal production period is after May and during summer.
Sugar-apple pineapple (Kaohsiung City Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Taiwan pineapple factory photo)
Tainung 4, also called sugar-apple pineapple, used to be the “king of pineapple exports” in Taiwan, according to Kuan. It earned its name because its inner fruit pulp can be peeled and eaten without needing to be sliced, just like the sugar apple fruit. Unlike milky and perfume pineapples, this variety has many thorns on its leaves, which may be why it’s not widely grown anymore.
Smooth cayenne pineapple
Smooth cayenne pineapple (Kaohsiung City Bureau of Cultural Affairs, Taiwan pineapple factory photo)
This variety was first introduced in Taiwan and became the most grown variety during the Japanese colonial period, mainly to be used in processed foods, such as canned pineapples. Smooth cayenne is also commonly referred to as “tu pineapple” (土鳳梨 in Chinese, which means the locally grown variety). However, Kuan explained that unlike its name suggests, smooth cayenne pineapple is not originally from Taiwan.
Tainung 11, also known as the perfume pineapple, is named after its strong fruit fragrance. It is unique as the fragrance can be smelled before it is sliced. With its optimal production between May and June, perfume pineapples are thornless, which makes it easier to grow.
Other common varieties in Taiwan include apple pineapple, mango pineapple, sweet honey pineapple, and golden osmanthus pineapple.
To learn more about pineapples in Taiwan, check out the “Pineapple Wikipedia” from the Council of Agriculture.