“ Country: Costa Rica / World Region: Central America „
Finca Corsicana - Pineapple Farm in Costa Rica
The pineapple industry in Costa Rica is bigger than Hawaii now and they export more than any other country. We visited this organic plantation which was owned by the people who started the Collins Street bakery, based in Corsicana, Texas and famous for its rich fruit cakes in the USA. They wanted to get a reliable source of quality papaya and pineapples for their cakes so started their own plantation in this area. The plantation was started in 1991 but the tourist part only began in 2005 as the interest in eco tourism took off and Costa Rica became an increasingly popular tourist destination.
The farm is over 3,000 acres and still growing and they harvest over 38 million pineapples a year and it is apparently the only farm in the world that produces certified organic pineapple. Pineapples are Costa Rica' second largest agricultural export after bananas and they have overtaken coffee exports since 2003. In fact pineapples are now the fourth most valuable export in Costa Rica in total coming after, surprising to me, microprocessors, bananas and then again more surprising, medical supplies.
It is located near the foot of the Mount Poas volcano with the second largest crater in the world. The volcanic activity has made the land fertile and rich in minerals. In fact to quote the guide
"The land here in Costa Rica is so fertile; fence posts actually take root and sprout leaves!"
And this is indeed true - instead of fence posts they plant trees close together and keep chopping the tops off. It looks really unusual to have sprouting fence posts with wires between them.
The Finca Corsicana which means Corsicana farm in Spanish is near the little town of La Virgen in central Costa Rica, less than a two hour drive north from San Jose through the Brauilo Carillo National Park and the San Carlos valley.
We had a very entertaining guide telling us about the plantation and how pineapples are grown. He asked us how we knew to chose a ripe pineapple and there were several suggestions; smell it, squeeze it, pull out a leaf, wait till it is golden. The guide then proceeded to mime someone choosing the pineapple and then told us all these suggestions were rubbish. The answer according to him;
"Look for a pineapple with big eyes or sections, slightly lighter at the bottom and well balanced and then look for one from Costa Rica!"
Pineapples originate from Brazil .They came to Europe first when Columbus brought some of the fruit back and it became known as the fruit of kings, because for its golden colour and its royal green crown. Today pineapples are consumed throughout the world but grown mostly in tropical, developing countries.
The pineapple plant is a bromeliad and the only one consumed commonly for food. Pineapple plants only produce one fruit and then they are dug up and new ones planted. They can plant them from a pineapple base or a top and a good planter can plant 8,000 in a day; talk about a back breaking job! The field are mulched and dug the then big drainage ditches are dug between rows so they don't get water logged. Black plastic keeps the weeds at bay as they don't use weed killers and the plants are carefully watched for any signs of diseases as being organic they cannot spray against these either ; they just have to be alert and remove any plants with any suspicious signs.
It takes 16 months from planting till an organic pineapple fruit can be picked so this is not a speedy growing plant. When I discovered what a long time they took to grow and how much work there was involved I was surprised at how cheap pineapples are. When you consider they have to have all the preparation in the field then the picking, sorting, packing, transport to the boat/plane then sail/fly to the other country then be transported again it does make you wonder why they are not £5 each. It certainly made me think and appreciate my pineapples more.
Organic golden pineapples are 35% sweeter than conventionally grown ones, because it ripens for 16 months on the plant, as opposed to 14 months for others. The extra two months give the plant time to accumulate more sugar, making it one of the sweetest pineapples on the market.
After our talk we got to try some fresh pineapple which the guide peeled with a huge machete type knife then he cut it up on his hand and offered it around - it was quite a skilful piece of knife work. I have to agree that it was a very tasty sweet pineapple, it certainly had none og the face squinting sharpness of some fresh pineapples I have tried in the past .We also had a drink of pineapple juice and a piece of the delicious pineapple fruit cake. It was so nice that we went over and bought one in a small tin from the Collins Street Bakery souvenir shop.
The farm not only grows pineapples that you can eat but it also has an ornamental plant section where they grow three varieties of ornamental pineapple for export: "Spanish Red," "Purple" and "Golden Pineapple". They are mainly exported to the United States, Germany, France, Japan and Belgium. They were like tiny baby pineapples in brighter colours. The ornamental pineapple section employs 30 women and five men from the surrounding community.
Pineapple growing can result in major deforestation as well as damage to the environment from the chemicals used to keep off pests. This farm is aware of the potential damage and in addition to being an organic farm Finca Corsicana has set aside parts of the plantation as protected areas. They are reforesting 74 acres along the river with native trees as they had a wildlife survey that found sloths, coatis, raccoons and monkeys, in addition to a species of ant in danger of extinction so this will provide an area of sanctuary for these animals.
All in all this was a most interesting visit and I learned a lot about pineapples which has made me appreciate those I buy with the Costa Rican label as I know what effort goes into growing and packing them ready for us to enjoy.
I trust that this has been of interest to you and thank you for reading this far. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.