DRAGON FRUIT…—Fruit of a cactus flower!

IN LOVE WITH DRAGON FRUIT…fruit of a cactus plant, on the super food list, easy to grow, easy to eat in salads, smoothies, raita and whereever else you wish to bring life to a recipe by way of garnishing or as a side dish to clear the palate! Native to Mexico and the Americas in general. Loaded with vitamin C, calcium and a cardiovascular tonic of the very best kind. Quickly discover the various kinds of dragon fruit in the market!

By Tara Narayan

HAVE you ever eaten the fruit of a cactus flower? Tasted the dragon fruit? I just have and am stricken anew with wonder! My friend Diedre Aquino had gone out of Goa and brought back with her a heap of dragon fruit (and presumably some plants to grow on her farm), gave me some of the deep matt pink strawberry coloured fruit, quaintly and evocatively called dragon fruit. What has it got to do with the dragons of yore which catch our imagination except that the flesh scales of this fruit are presumably like the scales of the dragons of the wild once upon a time.
Anyway Diedre even taught me how to cut a dragon fruit vertically into halves to admire the glistening tiny seed studded maroon pulp within, the thick skins are just a smooth peel away…jeepers creepers, this is a most enticing fruit to savour, mildly sweet if at all and for a while I consider its deliciousness. It’s definitely a fruit for those who suffer from the woes of diabetes and related afflictions.
Some homework later I learned this is one of the fastest growing tropical fruits of the world and one of the most lucrative for each dragon fruit may sell at Rs50-Rs70 plus, plus. Worth growing if you have some space at home or even in a large pot out on a terrace of balcony or even in the wild you want to be a good Samaritan for freebies for the public (like mango trees are in urban Goa, nobody really kills you for raiding them especially if you’re children). Public gardens may grow dragon fruit and sell the fruit generously to raise funds for maintaining the garden! I don’t know why our relevant departments never think about this on behalf of the public.
Anyway this dragon fruit is also called pitahaya or strawberry pear and grows easily. Hello, the dragon fruit is the fruit of a variety of cactus plant – so it is the fruit of a cactus plant and such a cactus beauty with those lush pink scales reminiscent of the scales of ancient fire-breathing dragons. Take this with a pinch of salt naturally. Dragon fruit comes mostly with red and white pulp within and the pulp is studded with teeny weeny crunchy seeds. The dotted jello pulp may be sliced, cubed or just served in halves as you wish or whoever wishes…the red one will stain fingers with red juice. But enjoy, enjoy, dragon fruit.
The dragon fruit arouses a lot of curiosity because it is the fruit of a cactus flower and I don’t know if our dragons of yore loved them and foraged for them in the wild, but this here which I am writing about refers to a cactus plant which within a year may yield up to 20, 30 fruit each harvest, may be more. I’m told there are golden dragon fruit and also black dragon fruit but these I still have to see.
In other countries they’re doing interesting things with the dragon fruit. For example, there are the usual dragon fruit syrups and sherbets and jams and condiments and the high class Urban Platter folk also freeze dry the pink dragon fruit (Pink Thai Pitaya) into powder and one may use the powder to flavour juices and cocktails…it would be nice to have a fruit dryer! I once met a foreign trekker in the mountains of the Himalaya who had this neat battery operated domestic drier or dehydrator contraption in which he put wet slices of fresh fruit and out they emerged as delightful and very agreeably edible dry fruit peels…apple peels, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, the berries dry up very well although they’re a softer affair to chew on. Must find out more about these fruit dryers for an instant energy and fiber-rich snack.
THIS is to say the dragon fruit is a native resident of Mexico, Peru, basically indigenous to the Americas but may be found cultivated in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the US, Carribean, Australia and some farmers elsewhere may grow them in summer houses. Dragon fruit like passion fruit are catching fire because they’re on the super fruit list and the health-conscious fruit fraternity patronize it in various ways – freshly cubed, sliced and eaten neat or turned into various combo cocktail juices. Some say dragon fruit tastes like something between the pear and kiwi fruit and I’ll go along with that now that I’ve had my fill of them to heart’s content.
Oh yes, dragon fruit is a very antioxidant rich fruit and offers a lot of nutritional values from vitamin C to calcium; generally speaking it is rich in flavonoids, phenolic acid, betacyanin, naturally fat free, high fiber, and yes, it helps lower blood sugar. It is prebiotic fruit and makes for a healthy gut. Antioxidant fruit with their fresh enzymes are essential to protect cells from free radical damage which lead to all the chronic diseases which cause premature aging!
Eat more antioxidant fruit and food, my friends, if you want to get back some of your lost youth or rectify what went wrong with body beautiful. Dragon fruit is for better gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health.As aforesaid it is easy to grow and there are several different cactus species…go discover them all if you have a mind to do that and are a farmer at heart! Viva la dragon fruit

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