Solanum lycopersicum ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’
Regarding Solanum lycopersicum ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ tomatoes, I have good news and possibly bad some news for home gardeners.
The good news: These pretty, bicolor heirloom tomatoes taste mildly sweet and fruity, and look glorious cut into sunset-hued slices.
The possibly bad news: If you were looking to grow a variety with a connection to the Hawaiian islands, this one wouldn’t work.
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It did not originate there, its flavor doesn’t resemble pineapple, and it’s not a pineapple shape, either.
But if that’s not a deal breaker for you, this could become your go-to heirloom to grow in the home garden.
Points in its favor include that lovely color scheme, its extra-large fruits, its ability to double as a cooking or slicing tomato, and its vigorous vines you can grow vertically to save space in the garden.
I’m here to share many other ways this pineapple tomato variety is special, along with tips for sowing and growing it.
Here’s what I’ll cover as we go along:
What You’ll Learn
What Are ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ Tomatoes?
They don’t have a connection to Hawaii, but ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ heirloom tomatoes have so many other positive attributes, their puzzling cultivar name becomes irrelevant.
Like all tomatoes, they are members of the nightshade family, the Solanum genus, and the lycopersicum species.
Annuals suited to USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 11, this variety can also be grown as perennials in Zones 8 to 10.
They’re indeterminate tomatoes, meaning they will continue to produce fruit from the time they mature until cold weather halts the harvest.
As we say in East Tennessee, “they’re big ‘uns,” with sturdy, regular leaf vines that reach six to eight feet tall and spread a couple of feet wide.
The mature fruits will weigh between 16 and 32 ounces each, so this variety could be a contender if you’re vying for neighborhood “biggest tomato” honors.
They’re considered beefsteaks, or slicers, and have the firm flesh and few seeds that make them ideal for BLTs and tomato sandwiches. Lots of BLTs, actually – one fruit’s enough to fill three or four sandwiches.
The fruits are renowned especially for their looks.
They ripen to a yellow-orange hue streaked with red inside. Not exactly a pineapple color scheme, more like a sunset. But this variety does have a distinctively sweet, fruity flavor with a spike of citrus.
No one will ever be tempted to bake it beneath batter in an upside-down cake, but it does have a sort of tropical flavor. Maybe?
There’s not a lot of information about the origins of this particular cultivar, but it was probably first bred in Kentucky or Eastern Ohio, like many bicolor beefsteak types.
It was introduced to the public by the name ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ by Merlin Gleckler of the famed family-owned seed business “Glecklers Seedman” in the 1950s.
Merlin’s son George Gleckler thinks there’s a possibility that ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ is the same cultivar as other tomatoes called ‘Georgia Streak’ and ‘Marizol Gold.’
This variety is also one of the parent plants for the ‘Black Pineapple’ or ‘Ananas Noire’ cultivar brought to market in 2005 by Belgian horticulturist Pascal Moreau.
Other pineapple tomato varieties include a type that is still green when ripe and a smaller, brighter ‘Pineapple Pig’ that actually is the same color as the tropical fruit, as well as a ‘Potato Leaf Pineapple’ that is much the same as ‘Hawaiian’ but with potato leaves rather than regular ones.
‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ has also been used to breed hybrids including the ‘Giant Yellow Oxheart’ cross known as ‘Oxheart Pineapple.’
Who knows when one of these will capture our fancy? For now, let’s explore the most popular pineapple tomato, the ‘Hawaiian.’
Since it’s so rare to find starts of ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ grown and sold locally, it’s a good idea to know how to start this variety from seed.
You’ll want to sow the seeds indoors four to six weeks before transplanting, which you can do once the soil and air have warmed and all threat of frost has passed.
Since the number of days to maturity for this variety hovers around 90, it’s necessary to carefully time indoor sowing. You’ll want to have plants that are big enough to transplant in plenty of time to harvest fruit before cool weather arrives.
Count back 28 to 42 days from your average last frost date to get an idea of when to sow, and be sure to mark the date in your gardening journal or set a cell phone reminder to sow the seeds on time.
While you want the starts to be ready when the weather gets warm enough, especially in areas with shorter growing seasons, it’s also important not to sow or plant them out prematurely.
Tomatoes sown indoors can quickly get spindly if you start seeds too early. Those leggy transplants won’t produce as well as stocky, healthy starts between four and six weeks old, or eight weeks old max.
You’ll need a tray or cells filled with a specialized seed-starting formula, or regular potting soil amended with sand or perlite so it’s lighter and has better drainage.
Press the seeds lightly into moist soil, and lightly cover them with about a quarter-inch of the growing mix, then tamp it down ever so gently with your forefinger.
Cover the container with a clear dome or plastic wrap and place it where the temperature will consistently be about 70 to 75°F, using a heat mat if needed.
Keep the soil moist with a spray bottle, and look for seeds to sprout within seven to 14 days.
As soon as they break through the soil, remove the dome or plastic film and move the tray where the sprouts will get full sun (or light from a grow light) until you transplant them outdoors.
You can find more detailed instructions for starting tomatoes from seed in our guide. It covers the important steps involved in sowing, hardening off, and transplanting the seedlings.
If you can find a fellow gardener with a ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ plant at least 18 inches tall, you can also root a cutting. Follow the instructions outlined in our guide to growing ‘Costoluto Genovese.’
In general, you should transplant store-bought or seed-started seedlings only after the average last frost date in your area has passed, in soil temperatures of at least 50°F, and air temperatures that are consistently at least 60°F by day and above 50°F at night.
While it may seem counterintuitive, you’ll need to bury the seedlings deep into the soil, leaving just the top couple of inches of stem and two or three sets of true leaves above the soil line.
Some people strip the bottom leaves off first, but I’ve always just buried them with the roots and stems, and skipping that step has worked just fine for me. Planting the leaf nodes beneath the soil helps the plants form strong roots to stay hydrated later in the season.
Backfill with soil from the garden plot and water in well. From that point on, the plants should take off with only moderate effort on your part.
More tips on nurturing ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ for the 90 days between transplant and harvest are coming up!
How to Grow
If you can keep up with watering in the summer’s heat and avoid common pests and diseases, ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ plants are relatively easy to grow.
Set yourself up for success by choosing a site with full sun and rich, well-draining soil you’ve amended with a couple inches of aged manure or other compost.
This location should also be somewhere you haven’t grown other nightshades in the past two seasons – or the past three seasons if you’ve had trouble with tomato diseases before and want to be extra safe this go-’round.
The ideal pH is 6.0 to 6.8, which you can determine with a soil test.
If you choose to grow these in a container, make sure each plant has its own seven-gallon pot that has drainage holes and retains moisture, not one made out of unglazed clay.
Weed ahead of transplanting so the young transplants don’t have to compete for moisture or nutrition with bigger plants that have more aggressive roots.
Give your plants plenty of room to spread out, spacing them 24 to 48 inches apart in rows three or four feet from each other.
Be sure to select cages or other supports that are tall enough for a vine that will exceed six feet in height, and strong enough to support both its weight and a full harvest of one- to two-pound fruits.
Install any supports while the plants are small, at transplant time if possible.
I use four-by-eight-foot cattle panels for vines this vigorous. I usually attach the panels to their poles first, then plant the tomato seedlings nearby.
That way, I don’t have to worry about forgetting to support the plants until it’s too late to do so without disturbing the roots or the rest of the garden.
Once they’re a couple of inches tall, mulch ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ plants with a two-inch layer of pine straw or untreated grass clippings to retain moisture and combat weeds.
Be sure to leave a four-inch circle of space between the mulched area and the center stems to reduce the chances of spreading pathogens from mulch to plant.
As the plants grow, they’ll form side branches. You may want to pinch those off since they’re unlikely to produce flowers or fruit, but they sap energy from the plant.
Unless rain provides at least an inch of water per week during the growing season, you’ll need supplemental hydration to provide that amount – or more if temperatures are soaring.
Drip irrigation and soaker hoses are good for growing tomatoes since they help you avoid wet leaves that can encourage fungal disease.
If you do water with a watering can or your garden hose, aim the water at the soil surface instead of letting it cascade over the leaves from above.
Make sure to water in the morning so the plants can absorb the moisture ahead of the baking sun. Also water early enough so the leaves can dry off before nightfall brings increased humidity, since overly moist conditions encourage certain pathogens.
Once the plants begin to set fruit, they’ll benefit from an application of 5-10-10 NPK fertilizer. Diluted fish emulsion, granulated organic fertilizer, and compost tea are all good choices.
Reapply your fertilizer of choice a second time about a month later.
You’ll find more details about fertilizing and mulching, along with myriad other tips, in our general tomato growing guide.
- Plant in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8.
- Install large cages or stakes to support each start when you transplant.
- When rain doesn’t provide an inch of water per week in summer, supplement via a soaker hose or soil-level watering.
- Mulch the plants when they’re a few inches tall using straw, dry grass clippings, or newspaper.
- Consider pinching off side shoots to strengthen the main stems.
Where to Buy
Should you spy ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ starts at a local nursery or farmers market, I’d advise you to snap them up!
Of course, they may be labeled merely as “pineapple” tomatoes, but chances are they’ll be this type – the variety that yields oversized beefsteaks with sunrise-hued flesh.
To be certain that you’ll have plants from this particular bicolor heirloom variety, I’d invest in some seeds pronto, from a reputable seller.
You can always freeze any extras, and they should remain viable for another five years if you don’t need them for this season.
One seed source is Botanical Interests, which offers 25-seed packets.
An envelope of 20-plus seeds is also available from Seed King Express via Amazon.
And you can purchase seeds in a variety of packet sizes and in bulk from True Leaf Market.
Managing Pests and Disease
When you space your plants to offer good circulation and provide ample nutrition and water, you can reduce the risk of pests and diseases damaging your tomatoes.
Bugs may still find them, however.
Those sizable green tomato hornworms always seem to make an appearance. Read about preventing, detecting, and eliminating hornworms in our guide.
Even with dutiful spacing and care, pineapple tomatoes can still be susceptible to certain fungal diseases and bacterial pathogens.
That’s why veteran vegetable growers religiously destroy plant debris at the end of the season and plant tomatoes in a new spot from year to year. Those are the best ways to avoid soil- and waterborne pathogens, some of which overwinter in the remains of crops or weeds.
Not at all cute like a kitty, catfacing forms deep grooves in the big tomatoes that make them look lumpy and unappetizing, though they may still be edible if the catfacing hasn’t progressed too far.
Harvest and Storage
Prepare for an unbeatable simple summer pleasure: Eating the pineapple tomatoes you harvest!
When you’re this close to victory, it’s no time to lose your patience.
As we discussed earlier, these are not going to be the first in the garden to ripen. With the typical number of days to maturity being about 90 from transplant, it may be August before you get a chance to eat these sweet heirlooms.
In the meantime, keep an eye on your plants, checking to see if they’re blooming and developing green fruits as the days go by, and then noting when the fruits begin to change color.
You’ll need to wait for the plants to grow tall enough to produce blooms, which can take 30 days or so for this variety, and then wait another three weeks for them to produce green tomatoes and have them grow to full size.
After that, the fruits need time to ripen – maybe another three or four weeks.
‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ colors up best at temperatures between 68 and 77°F. A little warmer is okay, but when temperatures exceed about 85 to 90°F, the ripening process slows or potentially grinds to a halt. Shade cloth can help to provide protection.
Should it cool down to 55°F, that’s yet another delay, maybe a week or more added to the total number of days to harvest.
Worth the wait? I imagine you’ll agree that it is when you bite into your first firm-but-juicy slice of ‘Hawaiian Pineapple.’
But if the delays go on so long that you start worrying that the green fruits will never turn the signature bicolor yellow and rose hues, consult our guide to helping green tomatoes ripen, either on the vine or after a harvest of unripe fruits.
When all goes well, and the fruits are the right color and yield to a finger pressed to the side, it’s time to pick!
I recommend letting them ripen on the vine for full flavor, but you can also pick them when they’re still firm and let them ripen on the counter for a few days.
These are pretty large, so use both hands so you won’t drop any as you gently remove the fruit from the vine, giving each a gentle twist until it falls off in your hand.
Once the harvest window opens, pick each tomato as it becomes ripe. Left on the vine, they’re fair game for birds and bugs, or they may crack.
They can also fall to the ground when they get overripe, where they’ll get dirty or mushy quickly.
Four-legged tomato fiends may also find them, like my chihuahua-Jack Rusell mix Pookah.
She particularly enjoys eating yellow tomatoes for some reason and will pounce on a fallen ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ fruit in three seconds, though this is bound to give her a bellyache.
She does have the right idea about eating these heirlooms without delay. They’ll taste best fresh, particularly if you’ll be eating them raw.
If you pick any that can’t be immediately consumed, you can store them on the kitchen counter for a few days if they’re not overly ripe.
Some old timers swear by placing them stem-side down for this room-temperature storage, but I’ve never noticed a difference in the quality, so I don’t bother.
Slightly less-than-ripe tomatoes should never go in the fridge because the cold halts ripening. But the ones that are fully ripe and veering towards getting mushy can go in the veggie crisper.
Just don’t leave them in cold storage longer than three days, and let them come to room temperature overnight before you use them for the best flavor.
If your friends are fans of that real tomato taste, you probably won’t have any extras waiting for someone to eat them. But when you grow several plants and are harvesting by the bushel, you may want to preserve the bounty or at least some of it.
I’ll share inspiration for stocking the freezer or pantry with ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ next.
Popular as a slicing tomato for fresh eating, beefsteak ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ fruits are also a good pick for preserving.
One option is dehydrating. You can find directions for that in our guide to drying tomatoes.
This variety does have higher water content than the tomato cultivars better suited for canning, but you can still use the fruits to make sauces to freeze.
Just be sure to add to the simmering time so the water will have time to evaporate and the sauce will be the ideal consistency.
Follow this recipe for roasted tomato sauce from our sister site, Foodal.
Cool the sauce and store it in airtight containers in the freezer, where it should keep for at least six months.
It’s also possible to freeze the whole fruit. When they thaw, they won’t be the right texture for fresh eating, but they’re still plenty tasty added to stews, soups, or sauces.
And if you’re an enthusiastic home canner, consider preserving a batch of ketchup in the water bath canner. Not only will pineapple tomatoes lend a certain sweetness to the mix, but their color is also a fun switch from the typical red.
Recipes and Cooking Ideas
Gazpacho and fresh salsa are my top choices for showcasing the vibrant colors and the fruity taste of pineapple tomatoes.
If you don’t already have a recipe for gazpacho, Foodal offers this one.
I’ll go ahead and admit I eat gazpacho made with colorful heirlooms for breakfast and late-night snacks all summer.
So I guess you’ll have me to thank if growing pineapple tomatoes leads you to the same tasty, healthful habit, and the thought makes me smile.
Of course, this firm, sweet slicing variety is also an ideal addition to tossed green, pasta, or caprese salads – or in BLTs or ‘mater sandwiches.
But you shouldn’t hesitate to also use this variety for cooking. Peeled whole or chunked ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ can work in most recipes that call for Roma or other cooking tomatoes.
Since the flesh contains more water, it will need to be cooked longer than thick-walled paste tomatoes to achieve the same consistency.
But if you’re willing to put in the extra cooking time and deal with the muss and fuss required to peel larger, more slippery tomatoes after blanching, you’ll find these sweet, citrusy beefsteaks are delicious in any number of recipes.
They would lend a beautiful color to Foodal’s recipe for Italian bread and tomato soup, for example, though you’ll probably have to simmer the tomatoes about 10 minutes longer than what’s called for to allow it to thicken.
They’d also be tasty in homemade beef steak pizzaiola, also from Foodal, though they’d make the sauce a bit sweeter than the paste tomatoes the recipe calls for. (Again, add at least 10 minutes to the simmering time to account for that extra water.)
You may never get to these recipes, though, not if word gets out that you’re harvesting these tasty heirlooms from your mid to late-summer garden.
I’ve found that usually shy people will speak right up to request I share my harvest with them.
Even when I plant four or five plants, there never seem to be leftovers after we’ve all used them for BLTs and the like.
Quick Reference Growing Guide
|Central and South America
|Hardiness (USDA Zone):
|Organically rich loam
|Mid- to late summer
|Time to Maturity:
|Basil, beans, carrots, chives, garlic, marigolds, nasturtiums, onions, parsnips, oregano
|24-36 inches (plants), 36-48 inches (rows)
|Avoid Planting With:
|Broccoli, cabbage, kale, and other brassicas; corn; potatoes
|1/4 inch (seeds), beneath second set of true leaves (transplants)
|Aphids, armyworms, hornworms, slugs, snails, stink bugs, thrips
|Anthracnose, black mold, blight, blossom end rot, catfacing, Fusarium wilt, mosaic virus, powdery mildew, Verticillium wilt
A Hula-va Heirloom Tomato
One of the things that makes home gardening so alluring is the ability to grow a prized vegetable you can’t reliably find at the store or farmers market.
In the case of ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ tomatoes, being able to grow the plants from seed when you’re unable to find starts is even more satisfying.
When you’re willing to do a bit of weeding and watering, and get dirt on your hands, you can provide yourself with tasty, sustainable food you can’t obtain any other way.
Are you already growing ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’? Be sure to share any tips and experiences with a comment in the section below.
We also welcome questions not covered above and will get back to you as quickly as possible.
And whether you’ve selected ‘Hawaiian Pineapple’ as your go-to or you’re still weighing your options, you’ll probably enjoy these heirloom tomato guides: