Are you at all familiar with this showy fruit? With brilliant pink scaly flesh and green tendrils curving upwards like a flame, this fruit could not have a better name than dragon fruit. When I first saw the flamboyant fruit on a local produce shelf looking like something from another planet - wearing a pink party dress, I knew I had to have one!
Dragon fruit, or hylocereus undatus, is also known as pitahaya or strawberry pear. It is actually a type of cactus, growing on fleshy, climbing stems which can reach 20 feet long. The yellow flowers of this plant are every bit as showy as the fruit. They bloom only at night, and usually only for one night, when they must be pollinated in order for the fruit to develop. Nocturnal animals like bats and moths are important in carrying out this task. This plant likely originated in Mexico or South America, but grows now in tropical areas such as Southeast Asia, and dry climates like Israel.
There are three different types of dragon fruit. One has red skin and red fruit, one has yellow skin and white fruit, and the one I was lucky to find has red skin and white fruit. The fruit is ripe when the skin is just soft enough to press it in slightly with your fingers. It should not be mushy, or have brown tips on the scales, and it should not be rock hard either.
Preparing Dragon Fruit
Dragon fruit is easy to prepare. The skin is actually thin and soft, but firm enough to form a shell as long as your fruit is not overly ripe. Just slice the fruit open lengthwise with a large knife. Cut around the outside edges of the white flesh, and then separate it from the shell and lift it out. Trim any pink parts of the shell off the flesh before cutting it into small cubes. This is a mild tasting fruit with a high water content, and very refreshing. The seeds are edible, and so tiny you barely even notice them.
I have eaten it sliced and added to a fruit salad but that is the extent of my culinary experience with this bit of cacti, so you see my dilemma, I need recipes!!!
Have you ever eaten dragon fruit? Do you know any good recipes?
Let me know, and Happy Gardening!!