Pineapples, which take three years to reach maturity, grow on a short plant called a bromeliad. Pineapples are native to South America, but most commercially harvested pineapples are grown in southeast Asia. Thailand produces the most pineapples worldwide, but American grocery stores carry mostly Hawaiian- and Costa Rican-grown pineapples to reduce shipping costs.
Pineapples contains large amounts of vitamin C. Sailors used to carry them, along with oranges, on long sea voyages to help prevent the vitamin C deficiency known as scurvy. This led to pineapples spreading around the world.
In addition to vitamin C, pineapples contain bromelain. Bromelain is a digestive aid that also aids in the elimination of mucus by breaking down proteins. This protein-breaking ability also makes bromelain an excellent meat tenderizer. Most of the bromelain in a pineapple is in the core.
Unlike many other fruits, pineapples don't continue to ripen after they are harvested. This, combined with their long maturation time, short shelf life and long journey to American grocery stores, is part of the reason that pineapples tend to be expensive.
Propagate a pineapple at home by cutting off its top, leaving about 1/2 inch of flesh attached. Plant the cutting in a pot of soil, place it on a moderately sunny window sill, and keep the soil moist, but not wet. After a few weeks, roots form and the plant begins to grow.