Victorian Pineapple Costs £10,000 To Cultivate

A miniature pineapple has cost the equivalent of £10,000 and the first pineapple was cut this season at the The Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Using an authentic Victorian technique the miniature fruit was grown in the restored Pineapple Pit, in the Melon Yard at Heligan, using the natural warmth of 30 tonnes of manure to heat the complex Victorian structure.

Heligan, which now boasts the finest productive garden in the UK, restored the derelict Pineapple Pit after discovering it 20 years ago, covered in ivy and 5ft high brambles.

A team of horticultural and restoration experts worked alongside the Heligan Productive Gardens team, determined to unlock the forgotten 70 year old technique of growing pineapples — and they succeeded! The second pineapple ever grown at Heligan, using the rediscovered Victorian technique, was sent to the Queen by Heligan Director Tim Smit. The first was tasted by the Heligan Gardeners to check it didn’t still have a hint of ‘farmyard warmth’ about it!

“Heligan pineapples are like no pineapple you’ve ever tasted,” says Marketing Manager, Lorna Tremayne. “It’s deliciously sweet, not stringy, and the flavour explodes in your mouth. One taste and shop bought pineapples will not be good enough ever again.”

Rare, exotic and hard to grow, pineapples were a symbol of great status and wealth in Victorian times. A pineapple on your dining table meant you were a person of discernment, style and affluence. The Heligan team have calculated that, not including the cost of building the Pineapple Pit, just the labour and resources required to grow the pineapples each year would have been over £10,000 in today’s money.

Nowadays finding the right manure to keep the plants warm over the winter in the Pineapple Pit is difficult. The horse manure must be mixed with straw to produce the correct chemical reaction, which creates the heat and humidity required. But as many stables have switched to the use of sawdust and other more modern materials instead of straw, to bed their horses on, this year the 30 tonnes needed to be transported from a stable near Falmouth.

“The Pineapple Pit is a perfect example of how Heligan blends restoration, heritage horticultural techniques and a passion for gardening to produce exciting results,” said MD, Peter Stafford, who adds “However I think it’s unlikely we’ll be supplying Tesco in the near future.”

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