Grow a pineapple in your garden with this heirloom tomato

June 29, 2022

Johann Georg Schröpfer was famous for performing seances using images of ghosts projected on smoke and making them disappear, literally using smoke and mirrors. Mirrors can be used in gardens to reflect light onto plants, thus increasing yields. Smoke can also actually help plants such as pineapples, which respond to ethylene in smoke by blooming and setting fruit.

While most of us won't grow pineapples, we can grow the Pineapple tomato, so-called because its ribbed skin somewhat resembles a pineapple. It comes from Kentucky or eastern Ohio, home to many bicolored heirloom tomatoes.

Pineapple tomatoes are beefsteak types producing large, yellow fruit with red swirls. They can weigh up to 2 pounds each. Because these are indeterminate plants, they will keep growing and setting fruit until killed by frosts. Left unpruned, they can grow up to 8 feet tall, producing basket-loads of tomatoes.

This variety has won many taste tests with its sweet, citrusy flavor. Use Pineapple tomatoes sliced fresh on sandwiches or in salads. Because they have very thin skin and few seeds, they cook down easily into sauces and soups. Even though Pineapple tomatoes ripen later in the season, they have a deeper, richer flavor than earlier varieties.

While it is late to start seeds, you may find Pineapple tomato plants still available at local garden stores. If you have a friend or neighbor with Pineapple tomato plants, ask for a cutting. Tomato cuttings root quickly in water.

Plant Pineapple tomatoes in full sun, in rich, organic soil with a pH of 6.0-6.8. Many growers add a tablespoon of Epsom salt to each planting hole, or you can add a tablespoon of Epsom salt to a gallon of water to use as a foliar spray on the entire tomato plant, leaves and all. Epsom salt provides magnesium. Be sure to water regularly, because tomatoes can crack and split if they get a lot of water after a dry spell. They need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.

Basil goes with tomatoes in sauce, and basil plants grow well in the shade of tomatoes, repelling flies in the process. Another great companion plant for tomatoes is the marigold, which discourages nematodes. Other plants that grow well near tomatoes include asparagus, carrots, celery, leeks, garlic, onions, lettuce, parsley and spinach. Because Pineapple tomato (Solanum lycopersciumn Pineapple) is open-pollinated, you can save seeds each year from your own crop.

If you have to harvest unripe tomatoes, you can ripen them indoors. Tomatoes actually need warm temperatures, not sunlight, to ripen. Just find a warm spot; 70º F is perfect. Place the unripe Pineapple tomatoes in a paper bag, close it up tightly and wait. The bag will trap the ethylene gas they emit which encourages ripening. You can add an apple or a ripe banana to the bag, since both will emit more ethylene. And like magic, you will have ripe tomatoes, even without smoke and mirrors.


  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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