fruit facts: pineapple


The pineapple, while it may be one of the weirdest looking and often painful feeling fruits, is one of America’s favorite tropical fruits. While you can buy pineapple in chunks, tidbits, crushed, or rings in the canned food aisle, pineapple, like all fruits, is best fresh. A lot of people are intimidated by a whole pineapple – how do I know when it’s ripe? How do I cut it? What can I do with it? Is it good for me? Let’s discuss:

Pineapples are pretty cool. They come from the Bromeliaceae family, which, really, ok you don’t care, but it’s the only edible plant in its family. What’s cool is how they grow. The plant’s flowers all fuse together, and slowly the fruit starts to form around a core. Wanna watch a timelapse video of it happening? Of course you do. Just come back, ok?

So, pineapples are grown in places like Brazil, Costa Rica, and the Philippines. They are in season in your local grocery stores from March to July, but you can buy pineapples all year round. Pineapples, unlike bananas or avocadoes, do not ripen more after they are harvested, so it’s important that you pick a good one from the store. But how do you know a good pineapple from a bad one?

First, look at it. Color isn’t necessarily a good indicator as pineapples can be green and ripe but also could be more golden yellow. Look at the leaves – make sure they’re nice and green and that they aren’t getting brittle and brown. Everyone doesn’t believe in the pulling a leaf theory, but I do. Pull a leaf from the center of the pineapple; if it gives fairly easily, the fruit is ripe. Now, smell the pineapple. If it smells sweet and like pineapple, it should be good, but if it smells overly like pineapple to the point where it smells a bit fermented or like alcohol, it’s going bad. The skin should look healthy and without cracks and when you squeeze the pineapple, it should give a bit to your touch.

Once you have your pineapple home, it’s time to cut! Not ready? You can keep your pineapple on the counter for up to five days. It won’t ripen or sweeten any more, but, if you are worried that it’s a bit ripe, it will soften a little bit and the acidity will go down a bit. Pineapple’s best flavor is, however, at room temperature, so, don’t cut it until you’re ready to use it. Now, a picture is worth a thousand words, so, this video must be worth a million. Everyone’s got their own way to cut a pineapple, but I like this way because I feel like I have the least amount of waste and the most stable way of cutting it. The gist is that you cut the top and bottom off, quarter the pineapple, remove the core and skin, and cut it how you like. Check it out:

Now, you may not hear about pineapples being a superfruit like pomegranates and you don’t see people putting them in everything like kale, but pineapples have a lot of great nutritious qualities. First, one cup of chunked pineapple has just 74 calories. It also has half of your daily Vitamin C needs, an awesome anti-oxidant and great for your immune system. Its strongest nutrient is the mineral manganese, which is great for energy production, control of your blood sugar, and again, antioxidant properties. It also has a good slug of vitamin B6 and copper.

One of the most remarkable and unique things about pineapple is the enzyme bromelain. Bromelain is a digestive enzyme that breaks down protein. Bromelain has anti-inflammatory properties that have been suggested to be helpful with reducing swelling and inflammation all over the body. For instance, it may help with sore throats, arthritis, gout, and may help speed recovery from surgeries and injuries. Because bromelain breaks down protein, the best way to get these extra benefits is to eat it by itself in between meals. However, there are useful ways to take advantage of the fact that bromelain breaks down protein. Most meat tenderizers that you buy in the store contain extracted bromelain to help soften the meat. If you’d like to do this with pineapple itself, include some fresh pineapple or its juice in your marinade. An important thing to note, though, is that heat destroys bromelain, and most canning processes involve heat, so, in order to get all the benefits bromelain can provide, use and eat fresh pineapple. For the same reason that it can tenderize meats, it can also turn dairy. Milk and other dairy products like yogurt should not have fresh pineapple added to them; it’ll start to break down the protein in them and give it an off-taste. The same goes for gelatin, which won’t set if you use fresh pineapple.

There are lots of ways to incorporate fresh pineapple into your diet. In the morning, it’s great in a smoothie with peach, mango, ginger, and kale. Eat it fresh as a snack, put it on kebabs with chicken, or in the summer, grill it for a delicious side dish.

I know most of you have had fresh pineapple before, but hopefully this gives you more of a reason to go grab one next time you pass by it in the store. They may be intimidating to cut, but it’s really not that bad once you get the hang of it, and for the amount of fruit you get out of a pineapple, they’re economical as well. Pineapple also has a lot of great nutritional properties (as pretty much all fruits and veggies do), so don’t feel guilty about adding it to your diet. It’s a great snack or finish to a meal instead of a slice of cake or a bowl of ice cream.


how to milk an almond

bluebottle2Ok, not really.  We won’t be sitting on a stool under an almond for this one.

The popularity of milk substitutes has been on the rise in the last ten years.  It all started with soy milk, then rice; now almond and coconut blends are all the rage.  So what’s the deal?  People are choosing milk substitutes for all sort of reasons:  allergies, lactose intolerance, nutrients, diabetes, because it’s trendy?  This week I’ll discuss milk vs. the milk substitutes we have available these days; the pros, cons, and the nutrition facts.  For now, let’s start with a method and recipe for almond milk.

I’m sure you’ve seen almond milk creeping up in popularity in your dairy section.  Move over soy milk, almond milk and it’s blended cousin coconut almond milk are taking center stage.  There are lots of options that you can choose when purchasing your almond milk at the store — unsweetened, sweetened, vanilla, chocolate, heck, there’s even iced coffee made with almond milk.  Unfortunately, with all of these choices, you get more than just almond milk.  Let’s take the label from Almond Breeze’s Unsweetened Almond Milk.

Naturally, almond milk does not have as much calcium as a glass of milk.  Let’s debunk that now.  Almonds do contain calcium on their own, but almond milk producers often add calcium carbonate to boost the calcium content to the 45% you see on the label.  Calcium carbonate is often found in multivitamins as well, so, think of it as crushing up one of those pills and stirring it into your milk.  Potassium citrate is typically used as a buffer or neutralizing agent.  Carrageenan is used as a thickener and emulsifier.  Almond milk naturally wants to separate, so this is used to keep the milk uniform.  Unfortunately, carrageenan, which technically is natural (derived from seaweed), has been known to cause inflammation in the gut.  Sunflower lecithin works in much of the same way, and though not dangerous, is just another additive.  And then we come to my favorite catch-all term . . . “natural flavor”.  Listen, pretty much anything can be called natural.  I just don’t like that such a vague term can be blanketed over so many substances and then just thrown on a label.  The remaining ingredients are much like the calcium carbonate — all chemicals added to boost the nutritional content of the almond milk.

So, with all that to say, I can tell you now you’re not going to get the nutritional content you see on the label above from your homemade almond milk.  Chances are, however, that you’ll get it somewhere else, whether that be your daily multi-vitamin, or the healthy choices you make throughout the day.  Let’s talk about all the healthy things that almonds have to offer this week, ok?

In the meantime, let’s get to how to make your own almond milk at home.

You’ll need to get yourself some almonds for obvious reasons.  I’d recommend getting just raw almonds.  Salted ones probably aren’t the best choice (besides, we’re going to soak these bad boys), and I’m sure roasted almonds would give you a delicious, but different flavor.  Try that out if you’d like!  I’m just using regular ol’ almonds.


Then, here’s what we’re going to do:  we’re going to soak them.  Again, we’ll need to discuss the importance of soaking nuts and grains at another time.  The short story is that soaking our almonds is going to allow the almonds to become nice a soft.  They’ll soak up a good amount of water (Two-thirds of their weight’s worth!) and the water will help deactivate many of the enzymes that actually inhibit proper digestion.  Just soak your nuts, k?  Yup, this post is about to sound all kinds of dirty.


All you’ll want to do is cover your almonds with a good layer of water; make sure the nuts are completely covered.  Now, you can cover it, or not.  I’d recommend not.  You’ll want to do the soak for at least 8 hours (overnight), but I’ve done it for up to 2 days.  If your kitchen is warm, you may want a shorter time.  The nuts will start to ferment if soaked too long or in too warm a place, so keep your eye and nose on them.  Fermented almonds are still fine to make into almond milk, but the flavor may not be desirable.  I found a little salt solves all the world’s problems in these instances.


It’s crazy how much water the almonds will soak up.  Check it out.  Same amount of almonds, before and after soaking:


Now that we have our soaked nuts, we can make almond milk!  Now, you do not need a Vitamix for this to work.  I promise.  You could even use a food processor if you don’t have a blender of any kind.  The Vitamix is just helpful to get as much of the almond-y goodness extracted from the nuts.

Now all that has to be done is to combine fresh water and almonds together in the blender, and let mix for a couple of minutes until you can no longer see chunks whirring by.  Check out the video below to see how its done:

Once you’ve got your blended almond milk, you’ll want to strain out the almond particles leftover.  This is mostly ash, insoluble fiber, and whatever meat of the almonds that didn’t completely liquefy.  In order to strain into a smooth milk, you’ll need something very fine to catch all of the almond meal.  I use cheesecloth folded over a couple of times, but you could also use a kitchen towel if you’re in a pinch, or, they even make these things called nut milk bags.  Oh yes, I know how bad it sounds.  These are great if you make a lot of milk or cold brew coffee.




Regardless of your straining choice, once you’ve poured your milk over your straining device and container of choice, you’ll need to start squeezing.  Because the almond meal is so fine, this will require some effort.  I recommend twisting the cloth to force the liquid out.  Twist.  Squeeze.  Breathe.  Repeat.  Get as much out as you can.  I recommend even sectioning small balls off of the fabric to get a better handle on the squeezing.  Oh yes.

cheeseclothgrab drippingmilk squeezedbag

Once you’ve given up, you will have some almond meal left inside.  You can discard this, or, you can throw it in a dehydrator or on a cookie sheet in a low-heat oven and remove the remaining moisture.  This almond meal is great in smoothies for an extra fiber boost or as a crunchy granola topping.

wetmeal dryingalmonds

Now that you have just your milk, you’ll want to taste it.  I find that it needs just a pinch of salt to round out the flavor.  On its own, the milk can have a bit of a raw or green taste to it and I find that the salt just mellows it out.  Add a pinch at a time, stir, and taste so that you get the perfect amount in for your liking.


You then can store your milk in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.  At about the 10 day mark, mine had definitely gone sour, which I could smell and taste.  Since your homemade almond milk will not have any of the thickeners or emulsifiers like the its store-bought counterpart, make sure you shake your container before use.


Feel free to play around with the recipe.  Add a vanilla bean or some vanilla extract for vanilla almond milk.  A few dried dates sweeten up the almond milk nicely if that’s more your style.  Or, how about a couple of dried dates and some cocoa powder?  Next on my list is to add some unsweetened flaked coconut to the almonds for a coconut almond blend!




  • 1 cup raw almonds (soaked overnight)
  • 3-4 cups of water (I like 3 1/2.  The less water you use, the creamier and thicker the milk)
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  1. Measure out the almonds and cover with water in a container.  Soak the almonds overnight, up to 2 days.
  2. Drain off the water and rinse the nuts.  Pour 3-4 cups of water into a blender or food processor and add the almonds.
  3. Start your blender on low and work up to high, blending until no chunks are visible, 1-2 minutes or longer.
  4. Strain your milk into a container using cheesecloth, a kitchen towel, or a nut milk bag.  Squeeze as much of the liquid out as you can.
  5. Taste your almond milk.  If salt is desired, add a pinch at a time, stirring and tasting after each addition.
  6. Refrigerate your milk for 7-10 days.  Shake before using.