Why does Maui Gold® pineapple taste so good?
Maui Gold® pineapple is famous for its extra sweet flavor and low acidity. These characteristics were developed over several years by traditional horticulturalists who crossed hundreds of natural pineapple varieties in the search for the best tasting fruit.
The story begins in the 1930s when the pineapple canning industry was huge throughout the islands of Hawai‘i. At the time, there were three major players: Maui Pineapple Company, Dole, and Del Monte. The three companies joined together to fund the Pineapple Research Institute at the University of Hawai‘i, which attracted some of the best agriculturalists from around the world. In 1932, a group of Institute researchers made field expeditions to the jungles of Africa and South America searching for wild varieties of pineapple. They were looking for natural characteristics of disease resistance, plant heartiness, and high acidity - qualities most suitable for the high volume pineapple canning industry. The scientists returned with a wide range of examples that formed the base for their traditional breeding program.
For fifty years, the scientists systematically crossed these different varieties at research stations throughout Hawai‘i. Because the pineapple genotype is so large, cross pollination results in wide number of offspring with many different characteristics. Just as two parents can produce a short, blonde haired child with green eyes and a tall, brown haired child with brown eyes, each pineapple cross can produce significantly different fruit with regard to taste, heartiness, size, shape, etc. Each pineapple cross would produce hundreds of seeds; every seed was then planted in a nursery, given a number, raised into a pineapple, and then evaluated. Those plants selected for further development were subjected to several years of production testing under different growing conditions. As a result, it took several years to find and develop new varieties suitable for large scale farming.
The Maui Gold® we eat today, formally known as PRI (Pineapple Research Institute) variety 73-50 originated from a cross made at the university in 1973. Although the objective of the Pineapple Research Institute was to find the best canning variety, one of the lead agriculturalists, Dr. David Williams, decided that if he ever found a plant that was suitable for fresh fruit, he would save it. For canning, the fruit is selected for its high acidity because it extends the shelf life of the fruit. The pineapple suitable for canning and the pineapple suitable for eating are completely different. In 1973, Dr. Williams noted the 50th and 114th cross of two parents had unusually favorable fresh characteristics: low acidity, extra sweet flavor, and 3 times the daily USDA requirements for vitamin C. After years of hard work, the Institute had produced the sweetest and most flavorful pineapple in the world.
In 1986, the Pineapple Research Institute closed and Dr. David Williams became a full time employee of Maui Pineapple Company where he continued to develop fresh fruit varieties until his retirement in 1992. Maui Pineapple Co. began growing variety 73-50 in 1988 and named it Maui Gold®. As the locally owned and operated successor to Maui Pine, Maui Gold Pineapple Company continues to produce and sell Maui Gold® to pineapple lovers around the world.