In the historic, blink-of-an-eye town of Hali’imaile (huh-lee-ee-my-lee) you wonʻt find a post office, you wonʻt find a working gas station, heck you wonʻt even find a stop light, but what you will find are two, uniquely different tours that share a look into this plantation townʻs past, as well as a glimpse into the townʻs future. I began writing one blog about the two tours, but then it occurred to me that they are so different (and I had way too many pineapple pictures for just one blog) that they should both get their own blog entry.
Letʻs begin with the past.
I have covered the Maui pineapple tour in a previous blog, click here, but after three years I felt the desire to go on the tour again. Not too much has changed in content since I attended the last tour, but I will say the tour was much busier than three years ago, which is a good thing for the company that runs the tour. The Maui Pineapple Tour now has a counter by the distillery to check in for the pineapple tour, which is a step in the right direction, but they still do not have a physical presence like a gift shop or fruit stand for you to purchase Maui Gold related items or even delicious pineapples (which you sample on the tour). I hope with their continued success they eventually consider adding this feature to the tour experience.
Steve the tour guide rolled up in the pineapple express shuttle and checked everybody in. The check in process is still in the parking lot across the street from Haliʻimaile General Store restaurant, but it is much nicer than three years ago when there was nothing around. At least with the distillery you have access to people, information, and restrooms before the shuttle arrives.
After Steve picks you up, the tour begins across the street at the processing plant. Visitors have to wear a laminate badge as well as a hair net, so if you donʻt already look like a tourist, you now look like a tourist with credentials who may be making lunch for others.
I wonʻt bore you with the same information from my previous blog, but I decided to keep notes while on this tour, so I have added to the list of things I learned from the tour three years ago.
- The pineapple was originally from Brazil.
- One acre of land can hold roughly 30,000 pineapples.
- The first crop of new pineapples take about two years to be ready to harvest.
- The second crop will take only one year to be harvested.
- A pineapple plant will continue to grow and produce fruit after planted and harvested for as long as it remains, but each pineapple will be smaller than the previous one.
- You can plant just about any part of a pineapple in the proper conditions and it will grow a pineapple (this includes the crown, each individual leaf on the crown, and each eye of the 120 eyes on a pineapple).
- Pineapples need lots of sunny days, cool nights, day temperatures between 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit and moderate elevation (below 3000 feet). The temperature cannot be below 50 degrees.
- You cannot tell a pineapple’s readiness to eat by color. All store pineapples have been sprayed with a wax coating, so the color cannot be trusted. You must use the “thump” test and flick it with your fingers and listen for a nice hollow thunk sound.
- A pineapple does not ripen more once it is picked, so once you pick it, it is ready to eat and will only go bad from that point in time.
- To store a pineapple after you purchase it, twist and pull the crown off, put the pineapple upside down in the fridge until you are ready to cut it up, that way the juice gets evenly distributed.
- The hummingbird is the pineapple plant’s natural pollinator. Since pollination produces seeds, which negatively affect the quality of the fruit, hummingbirds are prohibited in Hawaii.
- The pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality.
- Maui Gold pineapples are 15% acid to 85% sugar, while Dole pineapples are 30% acid to 70% sugar.
- Pineapples are hand-planted to this day. The workers are paid by the amount of pieces they can plant. If they plant 6000 pineapples in a day, their pay is about $40 and hour.
- Each pineapple plant needs one gallon of water per week.
- The pineapple plantʻs (leaves and base) size directly affects the size of the pineapple fruit grown (small plant, small pineapple).
- Dole pineapples (found worldwide) come from Costa Rica, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines (among others). They are picked green (not quite ripe) so that they can reach their destination and still have a shelf-life in stores.
And now for the life of a pineapple, after it is picked.
The pineapples are harvested and placed in huge containers. The container are then submerged in a 25000 gallon tank filled with water.
The ripe pineapples float to the surface and continue their journey, while the non-ripe or overripe pineapples sink to the bottom of the pineapple pool. The water used to be treated with bleach years ago to kill insects, but now it is treated with ozone, so the water can be reused.
The pineapples are sent up the conveyor belt and immediately coated with a wax and carbon dioxide spray to seal in the freshness and extend the shelf life of the delicious fruit.
The pineapples are packaged and ready to be shipped or stored in the refrigerated room until it is their time to be shipped. Overripe pineapples go to local farms to be used as cattle feed, while not quite ripe pineapples are taken outside and left in a field to soften up for a while before they get used for feed. The crowns can be used to seed a new crop of pineapples, so the company does not waste much. The entire process seems quick and effective. The workers switch duties so that if they harvest in the field one day, they are in the processing plant the following day. The labor is very hard and the conditions are hot, dry, and dusty out in the fields. In the processing plant it is loud and the workers are on their feet the entire time they are working the line.
I had another great experience on the tour and I hope to be able to go again in another few years. If you still haven’t had the opportunity to take the tour, do yourself a favor and at the very least taste a Maui Gold pineapple someday soon. You can order it online to be delivered anywhere…in the United States. Order here.
Until I take my next tour, please enjoy some pictures from my time on the Maui pineapple tour.
The following pictures are glamour shots I took of the free pineapple I received on the tour. I took this pineapple and set it up on our picnic table in the backyard and photographed the heck out of it.