Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is a stunningly sweet, creamy fruit that is a type of cactus of the genus Hylocereus, in which there are just about twenty different species. Here’s a quick guide with tips on buying, prepping and how to use dragon fruit. You’ll find links to recipes as well.
The fruit is native to warm-weather regions, such as Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and northern South America. Now, it’s grown all over the world and is especially popular in Southeast Asian and Latin American countries.
Dragon fruit gets its name from its vibrant skin and scales that resemble a dragon. It comes in yellow and red varieties. Inside you’re likely to see black seeds and white pulp or black seeds with red pulp.
The flavor of the various colors of dragon fruit is similar, and can be described as a slightly sweet cross between a pear and kiwi. The fruit can be enjoyed in smoothies, desserts, or simply on its own.
The following is excerpted and adapted from Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas, reprinted by permission of Melissa’s Produce:
Appearance, flavor & texture of dragon fruit
The appearance of dragon fruit is downright surreal. It has eye-popping magenta skin, dotted with bright lime-green spines. The spines are supple and plentiful. They curve downward like chartreuse bird wings.
Dragon fruit tastes like a marriage between kiwi and pineapple.
Inside the fruit, the pulp is spongy soft, the texture similar to a kiwi but a bit grainier. Often it’s gray-tinged white with tiny black specks that are minuscule seeds, but some have purplish pink flesh with similar black specs.
Yellow dragon fruit is also available; it has bright yellow skin with white flesh. It’s the sweetest of dragon fruit varieties.
Buying and storing dragon fruit
Look for fruit with hot-pink skin that’s free of soft spots or mold. Ripe fruit will give slightly to gentle pressure. To ripen fruit, leave at room temperature for 1 to 2 days.
Dragon fruit sweetens as it ripens. Refrigerate ripe fruit in the crisper drawer for up to 3 to 4 days before using.
The fruit is available seasonally in the US from August to November. Globally, it’s available year-round, with fruits imported from Vietnam, Ecuador, and Israel, among others.
Look for it produce markets and natural foods stores. You may have more luck ordering online from sources like Melissa’s Produce.
Prepping dragon fruit
The skin isn’t edible, but is easily removed. Cut the fruit in half or in wedges; peel away the skin with a paring knife. Or, cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Whichever way you cut it, discard the skin.
Dragon fruit is a good source of Vitamins A and C. It’s low in calories and is a good source of fiber. It has significant amounts of calcium and magnesium and an array of magnesium. Here’s a complete nutritional profile of dragon fruit.
Dragon Fruit Mocktail made with lemonade (photo: Melissa’s Produce)
Serving suggestions and links to recipes
Exotic fruit salad boats: Cut the fruit in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh. Dice it and combine with other diced tropical fruit (see photo at the top of this post) such as pineapple, mango, kiwi, citrus, etc. Gently toss the fruit with chopped fresh mint or liqueur, if desired. Scoop back into the fruit shells and serve.
Stunning fruit salads: Try this gorgeous Dragon Fruit Salad recipe, or simply add the diced fruit (or use a melon baller as in the aforementioned recipe for a real wow factor) to your seasonal fruit salads.
Citrus dragon lime spurt: Cut peeled fruit into wedges. Place on a plate and squeeze fresh lime juice over them. In Vietnam, this type of preparation is sometimes served with a bowl of coarse salt combined with ground red chili flakes and ground black pepper for optional sprinkling.
Smoothies: Dragon fruit is a wonderful addition to smoothies. Try a Dragon Fruit Smoothie made extra vivid with goji berries, and another smoothie that combines it with mango and banana.
Smoothie Bowls: Try Dragon Fruit Smoothie Bowls —they’re as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat. Same goes for Creamy Dragon Fruit Smoothie Bowl.
Cocktails: Add some tropical flavor to your cocktails with just a small chunk of the fruit. Here’s Pink Dragonfruit Cocktail, made with vodka, and for a lovely array of recipes, explore 9 Best Dragon Fruit Cocktails.
Mocktails and other beverages: The fruit makes a subtle yet unmistaken statement in refreshing drinks like Dragon Fruit Cucumber Limeade and Dragon Fruit Mojito Mocktails.
Sorbets: This fruit makes a great addition to easy sorbets. Dragon Fruit Sorbet bolsters the fruit with bananas, raspberries, and orange juice.
Raw desserts: Dragon fruit adds interest to all kinds of unbaked desserts. Take a look at these amazing Vegan Dragon Fruit Cheesecake Bars and Vegan Dragon Fruit Tartlets.
Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas
is available wherever books are sold
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