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How I Became a Minnesota Pineapple Farmer

Ten years ago, my husband and I escaped the January cold and spent a week in Costa Rica. We stayed at a beautiful but rustic lodge on the edge of the jungle, where the kitchen staff spoiled us with scrumptious meals made from the many local foods. Every meal was served with large chunks of fresh, juicy pineapple, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Perhaps it was the surrounding rainforest, or the sounds of birds, animals, and ocean waves on the beach that accentuated my pineapple-eating experience, but whatever the reason, I fell in love with fresh Costa Rican pineapples.

But all vacations must come to an end, and we were soon home in snowy Minnesota. Still in that post-vacation glow when I headed to town to stock up on staples, I was delighted to see that our local grocery store had pineapples on special. I bought four and looked forward to once again having fresh pineapple with every meal.

My latest pineappleMy latest pineappleThat was just the beginning of my pineapple obsession. Just for fun, I cut off the tops of my four pineapples, and put them in a planter box filled with soil. It didn’t take long for all four tops to take root and soon I had a row of attractive, low-maintenance houseplants. After a couple of years, they outgrew their box, so I split them. They kept growing – eventually reaching over four feet tall and equally wide. Then one day, I noticed a funny little tassel protruding out of the top of one of the plants. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that a baby pineapple was emerging. How exciting!

Since I had no training as a pineapple farmer, I really didn’t know what to do next. So I opted to do nothing, and watched it grow. In about six months, my pineapple looked like those from the grocery store. It was harvest time. To me, it was the tastiest pineapple I ever had – even better than those in Costa Rica. Perhaps it was because it was the first Minnesota-grown pineapple I ever ate. Or because it was the first pineapple I ever grew myself. Whatever the reason, I had discovered that growing pineapples is pretty easy. Then and there, I decided to become the first pineapple farmer in Minnesota. With that goal in mind, I now have about a dozen pineapple plants at various stages of growth. All four of my original plants have produced fruit, and the tops from those pineapples have been planted as well. Are they the first Minnesota-born pineapple plants? I think they may be!

But pineapples aren’t the only tropical fruit plants that I’ve sprouted. There are a number of tropical plants that are easy and fun to grow.

Avocado trees – The egg-sized seed found in the middle of an avocado will sprout and grow a beautiful, large-leafed tree. Clean the seed, peel off the brown casing and place it halfway into a pot of soil, with the larger end down. Alternately, place three or four toothpicks in middle of the seed and perch it on the rim of a glass of water; this way you can watch the roots sprout before transferring it to a pot. Once the seed produces a stem, it becomes a hearty plant that is easy to maintain. I have had two avocado plants grow to five feet tall.

Date palm trees – Instead of spitting your date pits into the compost pile, put them in a jar of water or pot of soil. With just a little water, warmth and sun, it doesn’t take long for a date palm tree sprout to pop up, and soon you will have a large, attractive floor plant.

Citrus trees – Try growing a lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit tree! Put the seeds from your citrus fruit in a pot of soil. The seeds don’t have to be very deep, only about an inch below the surface. Place the pot in a sunny window, water it regularly, and you’ll be surprised how quickly that seed will grow into a tree. I have a citrus tree over six feet tall. It may never bear fruit like my pineapple plants, but I love to crush up a few leaves for a fragrant, fruity potpourri that smells like an orange orchard in bloom.

Who cares if it’s January in Minnesota and you don’t have a tropical getaway planned? Try bringing the tropics into your own home. There are lots of fresh tropical fruits in the produce aisle to start with. Toss your fruit seeds into a pot instead of the garbage and see what sprouts. Who knows? Maybe you could become Minnesota’s first pomegranate farmer.

 

Debbie Morrison is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. She and her husband Jim own and operate Sapsucker Farms, where their certified organic crops include maple syrup, honey, apples, plums and vegetables. Debbie's last post for Simple, Good and Tasty was Winter Offers a Welcome Change of Pace on the Farm. Follow Debbie on Twitter at @sapsuckerfarms

Comments

Love this! Curious about light and fertilizer/soil and water needs? Do you do anything special to keep these or citrus going over the winter? Do you put them out in the summer?

Audry, that's the best part, I do very little at all for any of these plants. I just keep them warm and watered regularly, then repot when they get larger. I haven't even fertilzed them, just the fresh soil when repotted is all I've done. They have even survived times of neglect. They are surprisingly hearty. Give it a try, it's fun!

Papaya works well too - just take the seeds, put them into a resealable plastic bag with a wet paper towel, leave the bag on top of the fridge until the seeds sprout and plant a few in regular potting soil. With papaya you need a male and a female tree to get fruits, mine are about 3 feet by now but I have no idea what gender they are.

This post is both hilarious and wonderful, Debbie. I'm starting to get cabin fever, but I'm pretty sure it could be cured by some home-grown pineapple. Thanks.

I agree-- reading this was a nice little tropical treat on a cold, snowy midwestern day. I love your inventiveness; I think you've inspired me to try growing things in my home, too!

I have endlessly dreamed of growing my own bananas. Perhaps it is possible.

Alicia - if you figure out how to grow bananas, please share it with us all!Thomas - I am inspired to try an grow papayas! Jeanne and Leslie - have fun starting your indoor tropical garden!

Did your avocado trees produce fruit? Thanks for the great post!

Jay, I have not had any fruit on my avacado trees.... yet. But I do have a beautiful plant and hope that someday I might be able to make fresh guacamole!

makes me think of spring! Karen and I were impressed by the acres and acres of coffee, coconut and pineapple plantations throughout southern and central Costa Rica.

By all means get yourself an Improved Meyer Lemon seedling from a nursery or someone who already has some trees, and grow it on. It will flower (smells heavenly) and grow fruit almost constantly. A fresh pile of Meyer Lemons is a wonderful thing to have. I have several trees now...I just love them....I put them in a south window in the winter, and outdoors in the summer. They don't grow too horribly large, and you have wonderful fruit. You won't regret it!!!!! My understanding is that they do not come true from seed...so I wouldn't necessarily recommend that with the Meyer lemons.

Thanks for the suggestion of a Meyer lemon tree. I agree, nothing is more heavenly than the scent of citrus trees in bloom... Ahhhh!

Debbie, I've also read that you must cut the greens off of the top and then let the fruit dry out for a few days prior to planting. Is this indicative of your experience as well?

Larry, No, I didn't let the top dry off. I just cut the top off, and plopped it into water immediately. You can also just plant the top directly into dirt too, if you prefer. The roots of a pineapple top are very tiny and sparse, they look like small hairs.

Right now I have a pineapple top in my kitchen, that has been there for about a year. It's in a water container, and I see some very tiny little roots. But the pineapple top is about triple the size it was when I cut it off the pineapple.

Have fun!

Hi - thanks for the post. A friend of mine lives in one of the high-rises on York Avenue in Edina. She has grown tomatoes ( I am not surprised)- but she has a squash and pineapple plant there too. All these in the living room of her apartment. Amazing! I did not even know that you can plant those pineapple. Hers had a fruit when I saw it - about 4 years ago.

Hooray! Another Minnesota pineapple farmer! Yes, pineapples are very easy to grow!

When I first glanced at this article, I thought it was a spoof! Now that I have read it, I want a pineapple plant growing in my house too!

Hi, I am trying to grow a avacoto from a seed with the toothpicks. I did not remove to brown casing around the avacato? Will it not grow if I leave it on? Help! You seem to know your gardening! :)

Angie - you can leave the brown casing on the avacado... it will eventually just come off. It takes quite awhile for the avacado to sprout, so don't give up too quickly.

I agree it is always great to go to a tropical climate and then when you come home you try to grow the tropical fruit at home. I've never tried growing a pineapple tree indoors, but with the success you had I will be planting one very soon. I hope I can get fruit as well.

Hello, is it a problem if the avocado is made to dry out and then placed in water? I know it take a very long time for avocado to fruit, do you know how long yet? I too think I may try the pineapple! Thanks for your post.

I was researching on Meyer Lemon and found your blog.  Inspiring, thanks.  I'm getting ready to bring in a Meyer Lemon thta hasn't produced fruit too well in the last few years.  I get blossoms, but maybe only 1 lemon.  Any recommendations or thoughts?  It's old, maybe 10-15 years.

I am currently growing 2 pineapples on my deck. They are just in 2 plastic water bottles of water. They have been that way for 2 months now and are 2 times the size when i cut them off. Trying to figure out how i will keep them alive this winter in my place with a cat who will do anything to eat a plant. But super excited to see it fruit.

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