Wednesday, June 15, 2011
This fruit, also called pitaya or pitahaya, is cropping up in all sorts of applications these days--from sauces to vodka to tea, among other things.
This is the fruit of a cactus "tree" and is cultivated mostly in Vietnam and Central and South America. There are some farmers who are growing it domestically, mostly in Southern California, but it's not the easiest thing to grow.
Because they are native to hot regions, the flower of this cactus blooms at night so it isn't burned by the hot sun. So it must be pollinated at night--otherwise the flower will fall off and not form any fruit. Bats and moths take care of the pollination in it's native lands, but here in the US, pollination often must be done by hand by the farmer--a time-intensive and tedious process.
Still, dragon fruit is showing up in many high-end grocery stores. It's fairly expensive because it is delicate and shipping without bruising it is difficult.
The look of the fruit--usually red on the outside, but also can be yellow--would make you think you're in for a real taste treat. The name doesn't hurt either. The reality is, though, that the fruit is rather mild with a taste that is hard to describe. Some say that it is a bit like kiwi or strawberry or pear or melon. The fruit must be peeled before eating the inside (usually white, but sometimes pink, speckled with black seeds).
Let me know if you've tried dragon fruit. I'd love to hear how you describe it's flavor. For more information, read this article from the New York Times.