The History of Pineapple in Hawaii

Close up shot of several pineapples
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In 1848, the California Gold Rush began one of the largest human migrations in history. Half a million people from around the world traveled to northern California in search of instant wealth. At the turn of the century, another rush was also taking place. The pineapple rush in Hawaii.

What began as a one-man operation on Oahu in 1901 by James D. Dole, turned into a business that grew a thousand-fold and became Hawaii’s second most important industry (next to sugar). While the Spanish are thought to have introduced the pineapple to Hawaii in the 1500’s, credit goes to James Dole for discovering that the fruit grew very well on his farm in Wahiawa, on Oahu. Known as one of the most influential pineapple industrialists in the world, Dole began the first pineapple business in 1901 by converting his 44-by-80 foot barn into a cannery. He called the business the Hawaiian Pineapple Company.

Over the next 50 years, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company grew to be the largest in the world. With other smaller companies to aide in the pineapple rush in Hawaii, more than 12 million cases of pineapple were being produced annually in the state by the 1930’s. And with Dole’s purchase of Lanai island in 1922, his company alone was responsible for growing 75 percent of the world supply. There was even an advertising push for Hawaii pineapple on American housewives. “Don’t ask for pineapples alone. Insist on Hawaiian Pineapple!” It was considered a novelty up until then.

If you’ve never seen a living pineapple plant, you might be surprised to know it grows on a low-lying bush. They are grown year round in Hawaii and to this day the aloha state produces almost one third of the world’s crop and about 60 percent of its canned products. It’s no wonder why Dole Plantation in Wahiawa is the second most visited attraction in Hawaii!

Pineapple, although not inherently Hawaiian, is recognized today as a fruit of the islands. It’s used as edible displays in luaus, garnishes on tropical cocktails, a popular scent for lotions, a decadent flavor in desserts and a symbol of Hawaii. The fruit is considered Hawaii’s gold and is rich in vitamin C, bursting with a tropical, juicy sweetness that is sure to make anyone’s mouth water almost instantly. Try using fresh pineapple as a dessert or palate cleanser after a meal, chopped up in a salsa, marinated on meat or broiled and browned on a skewer. Or I’m sure you have many other ideas for how to eat and serve up this amazing fruit!