by TAMI SCHLIES
Has all this darkness got you down? Do you long for tropical sun, a little heat, maybe the smell of jasmine and piña coladas? Well, short of hopping a plane to the tropics, those of us with an inclination for fruit growing can try growing pineapples.
First, go to the grocery store and buy a fresh pineapple that is still fairly green. The leaves must not come off easily or else the fruit is too ripe for this project. Slice off the top of the fruit without damaging the leaves, leaving about a half inch of fruit attached. Cut away or scrape out the pulp below the leaves or else the base will rot before it has a chance to grow. Carefully peel some of the lower leaves from the base. You will see some small bumps and maybe even some roots which have started to grow beneath the leaves. Do not damage the bumps, as they are baby roots waiting to grow.
Transplant the top into well drained potting soil to cover the base of the lowest leaves along with those baby roots. Water it in, and then keep the soil moderately moist until it grows roots – do not over water! This may take two or three months, so be patient. Put the plant in a spot with good, but not direct light, and keep the humidity high. It helps to put the whole pot and plant in a clear plastic bag loosely sealed at the top. If the base looks like it starts rotting, you will need to start over with a fresh pineapple. Once roots form, new leaves will begin growing at the top of the plant.
After growth begins, fertilize monthly with a balanced soluble fertilizer. It will do best with at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Once again, be careful never to over water.
As soon as the plant has reached about 18 inches tall it is big enough to grow your very own baby pineapple! (It will not be full sized – that would require to plant to reach about 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide.) To start fruiting it will need a little coaxing from you. The best way to do this is to put the entire plant, pot and all, in a large, clear, plastic garbage bag with a couple of ripe apples for a couple of months. You will need to replace the apples a few times. The ethylene gas given off by the apples will encourage flowering and fruit. Within several months a flower spike with red buds will appear. The blooms will be purple, and soon after, a baby pineapple should form.