Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dragon Fruit or Red Pitaya

Esmee Tooke, who introduced me to durian, recently brought me some dragon fruit, also known as red pitaya. Her brother and a cousin, who live in Orange County, have the cactus-like trees that grow them in their yards.

I was very surprised to learn that they grow on a cactus, and further, that they are native to Mexico and Central and South America. I have associated the fruit with Asia, where it is cultivated in Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, southern China and some other countries, but is not native.

The outside of the fruit is red and relatively soft. It is also larger than I imagined.

The inside is white, with black seeds, and it is very soft: softer than ripe melon but harder than soft butter. Below, the two halves of one dragon fruit.

The fruit itself is reminiscent of kiwifruit, because of the sesame seed-sized black seeds found in the flesh; also it is much easier to separate the outer rind from the dragon fruit and the dragon fruit flesh is softer.

The flesh is mildly sweet. An article I read suggested it be eaten chilled, for improved flavor. I ate it both chilled and at room temperature and chilled was much better. Chilled, it had a very pleasant and refreshing feel in the mouth. The article also suggested not eating it with strong-tasting food, except to "clean the palate" between dishes.

It was very easy to cut into slices, or just to scoop the flesh out of a half with a spoon.

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