Growing the edible red Brazilian pineapple, Ananas bracteatus, in New Zealand provides a viable commercial crop for flowers and also potentially for fruit.
Having studied naturopathy, Clinton Scott became entranced by herbs as medicines and so began down a new track of permaculture, and self-sufficiency, developing along the way a major interest in edible plants. He has developed gardens all over Northland, New Zealand, many with exotic or rare plants and trees. His most recent venture with a partner is the commercial development of a pineapple plantation.
We generally think of pineapples as a tropical fruit grown north of Australia and in other tropical climates, but Clinton has found that a red, quite elongated pineapple which grows wild in Brazil, not only likes the conditions in Northern New Zealand but thrives so well that he has been able to produce four acres of commercial crops of stunning red pineapple flowers for the floristry trade.
Pineapple Flowers for Floristry
The bright red highly ornamental flowers last for at least a month, gradually changing hue to less intense pinks after the first two weeks. Both the colour and the longevity, not to mention the striking form of these flowers, are much sought after by florists. Packing them in boxes of 40, Clinton and business partner, Miles Valentine, race to keep up with the demand which currently sees sales at between one and five dollars per flower.
Pineapple Fruit – Ananas Bracteatus
Ananas bracteatus, the pineapple as a mature fruit has a natural shield of spines to protect its relatively thin skin. The fruit is not as fat as other varieties but is just as delicious. From the point of flowering, Ananas bracteatus produces mature fruit within six months. The pineapple doesn’t have a fruiting season per se but it can be encouraged to fruit in summer when sunny weather is at its peak.
“Pineapples fruit all year but summer fruit is sweeter than winter fruit. This particular variety is quite cold resistant and will also happily grow in shady conditions,” says Clinton. “Here in the Far North, the soil is a bit poor so the fruit is not very consistent in quality, but the plants produce prolific blooms and that’s all I’m looking for. If they were to be grown in good soil, the fruit would be 100 percent quality whereas when I allow mine to fruit perhaps only one in three fruits are excellent, and the rest only acceptable.”
Pineapples are from the bromeliad family and retain water. The water is held in their stems and, in what can be a dry environment, attracts many frogs to the plants, though Clinton isn’t sure how they navigate the spines.
Flowering at the end of a tall stem, and then developing into substantial fruit, the stems bend while supporting the fruit so Clinton stakes the plants except where they are naturally supported by neighbouring plants. He follows the industry method by applying a spray of ethylene (10mls) in 10 litres of water to encourage the plants to flower.
Excellent Market for Pineapple Flowers and Fruit
Clinton says that a surprisingly large market exists for both the pineapple blooms and the fruit in New Zealand. He’s hoping that others might take a commercial interest in growing this variety of pineapple which he says would require quite a bit of determination to kill. With such a ready market, they’re under a lot of pressure and more growers would be welcome. He is even able to sell plants to interested growers and a number of people have taken an interest, though not yet at a commercial level.
Source: Theresa Sjoquist interview with Clinton Scott – February 2011