Monday, August 29, 2011

Dole Pineapple Plantation

Did you know that pineapples are not native to Hawaii? It turns out they are from South America and came over on trading ships back in the early 1800s.

This was one of the interesting facts I learned when I stopped at the Dole Pineapple Plantation on my way to North Shore on Oahu. The plantation sits almost in the center of the island at an elevation of xx above sea level. This elevation provides the perfect growing conditions in that there is plenty of Hawaiian sun but the temperatures are a bit cooler than down by the coast. Another element that makes Hawaii perfect for pineapples is the high iron content in the volcanic soil.

James Dole bought 61 acres in 1900 and started planting pineapples. He saw the potential of this amazing fruit and selected the Cayenne Pineapple as the best variety for production. The Cayenne has uniform cylindrical shape and consistency in flavor and texture. In 1901 he built a cannery to make it even easier to ship pineapple around the world. The cannery operation eventually moved to Honolulu to be closer to port and at one time was the largest cannery in the world. Dole also bought the island of Lana'i for the sole purpose of growing pineapple. It soon was growing 75% of the world's pineapples.

The plantation has built quite the tourist facility. It includes a huge gift shop and a restaurant that serves its famous Dole pineapple whip (and more). Outside there are three attractions that each cost additional fees.

For the kids there is a train that takes a 20 minute loop around the plantation with a recorded audio track talking about Dole, the plantation, and the history of the area. Along the way you will see other types of crops that they grow as well, including cacao, bananas, ginger, taro, papaya, breadfruit, and more. I wasn't going to go on the train with all the families until I heard that it included the audio track. It was interesting, but the train loop itself was nothing special. If you do go on it, sit on the right side of the train as it gets the better view for photographs.

Another feature is their plantation garden tour. In this area you can walk freely or use a handheld audio guide to learn about some of the flora in the garden. I found this lacking and not worth the $5.00 price. There were not many stops or much information given. The garden itself is lovely, though. If you are into gardening, then it's worth checking out. I'm not.

The third attraction I didn't do - the maze. They advertise it as the world's largest maze, but that's something that everybody claims these days.  But it was designated as such in 2008. It covers three acres and has one and a half miles of paths. Within are eight secret stations you are supposed to reach and if you get to the center in a certain amount of time you win a prize.

I found the Dole Plantation a nice stop along the drive to and from North Shore. Definitely a good bathroom/snack break. Seeing pineapples actually growing was pretty cool too.

Be sure to check out the Dole site on how to grow your own pineapple. There is no reason why it shouldn't grow fairly well in Sacramento.

I used to pull leaves from the top of a pineapple to tell if it was ripe. Apparently that has nothing to do with it. Instead, check for green leaves on top and a plump body. Size doesn't matter with pineapples except for quantity of edible fruit. Pineapples do not ripen any more once off the vine. They are picked at their peak and should be eaten as soon as possible or stored in the refrigerator.

For other Farm-to-Fork style stories like this one, click here: Farm-to-Fork
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