Few would guess that such a tropical, waxy, bright fruit grows on a fierce, palm tree-like cactus. Dragon fruit is like the Leo of the zodiac: All bark and no bite. Despite pompous names that include “fire dragon fruit” and “dragon crystal,” pitayas have a toothless, mild flavor that belies their brash, outspoken monikers.
Origin of Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit originated in central Mexico, South America and Central America. According to the “Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts,” dragon fruit sites date back 2,300 years ago to pre-Colombian settlements. When Europeans traveled to the New World and obtained the seeds, they then carried the fruit with them to Taiwan. In 1870, the French introduced dragon fruit to Vietnam after discovering it in either Guyana or Nicaragua.
Vietnam continues to be one of the top dragon fruit cultivating countries, with several other nations bringing Vietnamese clones of the fruit for further study and hybridization. Countries growing the fruit today include Colombia, Israel for shipment to European markets, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico for local consumption, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Indonesia.
Availability of Dragon Fruit in India
Dragon fruit is mostly imported to India from its Chinese and Sri Lankan neighbors. That said, the soil in Hyderabad and other fertile regions of India are apparently conducive to growing dragon fruit, but few places (if any) cultivate it on a serious scale. The interest in dragon fruit isn’t widespread, and the taste doesn’t compel many people to justify its high price tag.
Additionally, dragon fruit takes at least 40 years to reach peak production. Despite the dragon fruit’s year-round fruit season, many price-sensitive Indian farmers have little interest in expending the resources necessary to harvest this fruit in a low-demand market.
Where to find Dragon Fruit in India
Small and medium-sized shops do not sell the expensive, imported dragon fruits. The best chance of finding them—for a pretty coin at that—is frequenting the upscale stores known for a bounty of produce.
Dragon fruits are sporadic. One week, they’ll be on the shelves in their spiky pink glory, and the next, there will be no trace of them.
|I HAVE TO include another picture of the|
Checking for Ripeness in Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit’s pink skin is the best measure of ripeness: it should be waxy, taut, and uniformly vibrant. If it’s gray and dull with limp leaves, the fruit is still edible, but will soon spoil. Brown and withered “wings” (ie, flaps of the fruit) are other signs the fruit is getting overripe.
As it pertains to edibility, dragon fruit is like bananas and mangos—though it might not look pretty when at peak ripeness, it’s still edible. And in fact, the fruit might taste better when it gets brown and a tad gray.
Do not consume if the fruit is moldy, mushy, bruised, or partially discolored. Quality fruits also emit a light, tropical aroma. If it smells moldy or off, select another fruit.
Place dragon fruits in the refrigerator at a temperature between 3-8C in relative humidity. In these ideal conditions, the fruit will keep for 25 days. Expect discoloration while placed in cool storage.
Dragon fruit may also be frozen: remove and blend the pulp, and then transfer to a freezer bag.
Taste of Dragon Fruit
The taste of dragon fruit will disappoint those with high expectations. Dragon fruit is another victim of the “pretty fruit syndrome,” a theory that purports that the prettiest-looking fruit are the most unpalatable.
Dragon fruit is what kiwi would taste like if stripped of its sweetness and acidity; in essence, dragon fruit is quite bland. It’s mildly tart with a hint of sweet, with these flavors not changing for even the best, ripest fruit. First-time dragon fruit eaters might assume the fruit is simply unripe, but no—the taste is unexciting.
Some accounts speak of “deliciously sweet,” nirvana-inducing dragon fruits. However, these are the exception, not the rule. While worthy of purchasing for a first-taste experience, it’s worth reconsidering the steep price before engaging in a quixotic search for these alleged sugary fruits. Unsurprisingly, the best tasting fruits come from dragon fruit producing countries. The small black seeds also provide a nice crunch to its otherwise smooth texture that also resembles kiwi.
Nutritional Value of Dragon Fruit
The Sri Lanka Department of Agriculture lists a range of values for the dragon fruit’s nutrients. The average values for 100 grams of edible dragon fruit flesh contains:
.194g Protein (negligible)
.41g Fat (negligible)
.8g Fiber (3.3% RDI)
7.55mg Calcium (>1% RDI)
33.15mg Phosphorous (3.3% RDI)
.6mg Iron (3.3% RDI)
.1615mg B1 (10.7% RDI)
.044mg B2 (2.5% RDI)
.3635mg B3 (1.8% RDI)
8.5mg Vitamin C (14.1% RDI)
Health Benefits of Dragon Fruit
--University of Gent researchers found dragon fruit oil made from the seeds are a rich source of essential fatty acids and tocopherol (Vitamin E). This nutrient is critical for protecting the body from free radical damage and oxidation. Vitamin E also assists with proper organ function.
--The carbohydrates in dragon fruit can, according to a Food Chemistry study, stimulate growth of probiotics necessary for good intestinal health.
--The US Institutes of Health found that dragon fruit extracts decreased aortic stiffness and controlled oxidative damage. In other words, dragon fruits may help diabetic patients with cardiovascular problems.
--According to a 2005 study conducted in Phytotherapy Research, dragon fruit extracts from the leaves, fruit, rind and flowers illustrate wound-healing properties.
--The Cosmetics and Toiletries journal explains how some institutions extract dormins from dragonfruit: these extracts maintain healthier, younger skin, reduce the risk of cellular skin disorders and tighten the skin.
--The high amount of antioxidants in dragon fruit promotes cellular health and helps the body fight external pollutants like free radicals. These antioxidants are also anticancerous and lower blood pressure.
--Dragon fruit has a high amount of B1, an essential nutrient that provides the following benefits:
--Strengthens the immune system
--Promotes brain health
--Helps the body cope with stress
--Reduces the risk of developing cataracts
--Helps muscle coordination
--Shows potential in treating Alzheimers
--Helps regulate metabolism
How to Open/Cut:
Dragon fruit’s smooth, giving flesh and pliable peel makes it easy to cut. If eating the fruit by itself, eat it like a kiwi: Simply slice the fruit in half, and scoop the flesh with a spoon.
If cutting the flesh into chunks, there are two choices:
1) Cut off the peel from the fruit like a watermelon: lop off an end and stand the fruit upright. Then, carve away the peel by cutting downward.
2) Or, cut in half and scoop out the flesh, ideally keeping the flesh in one piece. Use a large, flat soupspoon to achieve best results.
|Cut dragon fruit|
Dragon Fruit Recipe Ideas and Uses:
--Add dragon fruit chunks with papaya, watermelon and pineapple to make a tropical fruit salad. Other fruits that complement dragon fruit include mango, kiwi, coconut, grape, litchi and mangosteen.
--Make dragon fruit sorbet or ice cream: puree the fruit with lemon juice and sugar. Freeze, then blend with a powerful blender or put through an ice cream maker.
--Cut into small pieces and add to chunky salsa recipes.
--Add to fruit skewers and make a sweet agave coconut cream marinade
--Blend and sweeten as part of a cocktail, making sure to garnish the beverage with a bright, cut ring of the fruit.
--Make into a sticky sweet, colorful jam. For every 1kg of fruit, use 500 grams of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Use the lemon pith for its pectin as well. After 10 minutes of simmering the ingredients on medium heat, the concoction should thicken into jam.
--Create dragon fruit jello: Boil gelatin, then add sugar. Set aside to cool, then stir in pureed dragon fruit. Let the dish sit in the refrigerator over the course of an afternoon to solidify the texture.
--It’s possible to dehydrate dragon fruit rings. When dried, it has a mild flavor but its many seeds make for a crunchy, unique texture.
*Serve several of these dishes, such as the sorbet or salsa, inside of its colorful, hollowed-out shell.
|Dragon fruit sorbet from|
Fruits: Kiwi, cactus pear, feijoa, giant granadilla, orange, sweet lime, pomelo, pineapple, banana, papaya, coconut, sapota, passion fruit, guava, mango, mangosteen, lychee, longan, pomegranate, rambutan, strawberry, watermelon, musk melon, grape, Malay apple, java apple
Vegetables: Bell pepper, cucumber, jicama, dark leafy greens
Herbs, spices, and oil: Sugar, lemon juice, lime, citrus zest, basil, cilantro, mint, tropical syrups, sugar, gelatin, grenadine, rum, vodka, seltzer, champagne, white wine, coconut milk, macadamia nut, cashew, nut creams
Note: Use caution when pairing and seasoning dragon fruit. Even the simplest of spices can overpower its subtle, mild flavor.
Asian marketers developed an extensive campaign to promote the fruit. Marketing material describes “legends” purporting that the fruit came from fire breathing dragons, and that the fruit is like a dragon egg. Given the fruit’s introduction to Asia circa 1800s, few believe in these embellished tales.
Dragon fruits are related to cactus pears (Opuntia ficus-indica)
Night blooming cereus
Lady of the Night
Brahma Kamal (Marathi)