The History of Pineapples in Hawaii

Among the things Hawaii is known for is the production of pineapples. Pineapple is a tasty fruit and is recognized globally due to its sweet taste. Initially, the fruit was referred to as ‟anana″ a Caribbean word which means ‟excellent fruit″. Hawaiians referred to it as ‟halakahiki″ meaning ‟foreign fruit″.

The origin of the Hawaiian pineapple.

Pineapples originally came from South America, most possibly the region between Paraguay and Brazil. From here, they rapidly spread all over the continent and reached the West Indies and Mexico. Here, Columbus found them while on a visit to Guadeloupe in the year 1943. He then brought back the pineapple to Europe, from where it began its trip towards Hawaii.

Pineapples were seen to be a remarkably good fruit to carry on long sailing expeditions. This is because just like oranges, they helped to prevent the frequent lethal ailments such as scurvy. Aside from this, apparently a mixture of sand and pineapple was also a good cleaning agent for the huge wooden ships that were used for crossing the oceans.

When pineapples arrived first in Hawaii is not yet known. It is likely they first arrived together with the initial European visitors who were visiting the Hawaiian Islands. The first recorded claim of the above visits was by the Spanish people during the 16th century. For the smart reader, this is probably more than two centuries ago prior to the coming of Captain James Cook. Since pineapples were considered a popular fruit to carry on long transatlantic expeditions, any ship docking in Hawaii might have carried a number of these fruits alongside them.

However, after their initial arrival, it took them sometime to turn to a huge success they are currently. There were two technologies which were vital for the success of Hawaiian pineapples. The original one was the expansion of ocean steamers that made the transportation of perishable fruits possible. Canning was the second development. It made it easier to harvest pineapples while ripe and preserve their exceptional taste for customers globally. Commercialization of pineapples first began in the 1880s, however, things immensely picked up after the entry of James Drummond Dole into the pineapple industry in 1903.

James Dole and John Kidwell.

Captain John Kidwell was the pioneer of the pineapple industry in Hawaii. He tested a wide array of pineapples and finally fell for the smooth Cayenne during the 1880s. James Dole who was frequently referred to as the ‟Pineapple King″ came to Hawaii in the year 1899. He began his first pineapple plantation in Wahiawa one year later and constructed a pineapple cannery in the year that followed.

In the year 1922, James brought the Lanai Island, where he built the biggest pineapple plantation in the globe. It expanded by 75 percent during its peak years of supplying pineapples. Dole eventually died in 1958. Presently, his Hawaiian Pineapple Company in Hawaii is still recognized globally as the Dole Food Company.

Foreign workers in Hawaii.

As a result of the global demand of pineapples, more and more companies started to cultivate this profitable fruit. As a result of the increasing demand for workers, the plantations started to import workers from foreign countries like Puerto Rico, Portugal, Korea, Philippines, Japan and China. Majority of people living in Hawaii today are able to trace their own lineage beginning when the ancestors arrived in Hawaii to labor on the coffee, sugar or pineapple plantations. This was a way of seeking an improved life for themselves as well as their families.

Life of immigrants on the pineapple plantations.

For immigrant laborers, life working on the plantation was very difficult. Their working day normally began at six in the morning and ended at around 4:30 in the late afternoon. While working the laborers wore heavy protective clothes because of the prickly pineapple leaves. Though the work was very physical, their wages were below 20 dollars every month. But, housing close to the fields was free.

Production of pineapples today.

During the 1950s, there were about eight pineapple companies in Hawaii making this island the biggest pineapple grower. Recently, due to increasing labor expenses and a rise in competitive producers around the world such as Brazil, Philippines and Thailand, Hawaii only produces two percent of the global pineapples. Maui Gold Pineapple Company and Dole Company on Oahu still cultivate pineapples for fresh market consumption.

Though the Hawaiian pineapple industry does not possess the economic power it had in the past, it still has a lasting legacy on the culture and history of the Hawaiian people.

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