Have you ever seen a dragon fruit? You have now:
That is one beautiful piece of fruit! It stopped me in my tracks when I turned the corner at Whole Foods and saw a whole display of them. I had never seen a dragon fruit before. I’ve heard of them, because I remember seeing, a few years ago, a dragon fruit-flavored Snapple product, but I didn’t assume it was an actual, real fruit. I thought it was a made up word for marketing purposes, like how Kool-Aid made up a flavor when I was a kid called Purplesaurus Rex, which, believe it or not, was neither the name of a flavor found in nature NOR an actual dinosaur.
Dragon fruits are real, though. And as I stood in Whole Foods, turning them over and over in my hands like they were rare and luxurious jewels, I knew I had to buy one. So I did. Of course I did.
And then, when I got home, I saw this:
“Magenta inside”! I have so many questions! 1) How do they know for sure? 2) What other colors could it be? 3) Are some colors poisonous?
After a little bit of research, I found out that there are three main types of dragon fruit:
- Red-skinned with white flesh
- Red-skinned with red or magenta flesh
- Yellow-skinned with white flesh
I also learned that they’re native to Central and South America, but now they’re grown on 6 continents and are especially popular in Southeast Asia, with Vietnam being the leading exporter. They’re also known as pitaya. The name dragon fruit stems from a legend that involves fire-breathing dragons that would also, um, barf up dragon fruits. The legend says that soldiers collected the barfed-up dragon fruits to present them to the Emperor, and the legend also says that the most prized cut of dragon meat was near the dragon’s butt, where the dragon fruits were said to originate from, and it was desire for this cut of dragon meat that led to the extinction of dragons.
It’s not a very good story. It kinda sucks. But that’s OK, because the story isn’t actually folklore, it was invented to help market the fruit when it was first introduced in Asia. Seriously.
Time to see what this barfed-up dragon part looks like on the inside:
WHAT? Are you kidding me? The sticker was right: that sure is magenta! I didn’t think this color existed in nature. I thought it was invented by wig makers and neon-sign manufacturers.
This may be the most beautiful piece of fruit EVER.
Following a piece of advice of saw online, I got my spoon and scooped out the flesh, like you would with half of an avocado. Dragon fruit skin is tough, leathery, and unedible.
Dragon fruit kinda reminded me of cactus pear (also known as prickly pear). They’re about the same shape, are filled with little seeds, and it turns out they’re both the fruit of cactus plants. Even though I hadn’t tasted the dragon fruit yet, I already knew I liked it more than cactus pear, because cactus pear are dangerous: they’re covered in terribly painful thorns (its recommended you handle them with gloves), and the seeds are big and hard enough to chip a tooth. The dragon fruit’s exterior is thorn-free, and these seeds are teeny-tiny, like a kiwi.
So how does it taste? I cut my dragon fruit into pieces…
…and grabbed a piece:
I was expecting a big bold flavor to accompany the big bold color. And, well, it turns out the flavor of a dragon fruit is neither big nor bold. It’s good, but it’s very mild. It has a watery crunch, like a watermelon, with a kiwi-ish taste. It’s very juicy, and I didn’t notice the seeds at all. I would totally eat it again. I’d love to add it to a fruit salad.
Some nutritional info: An ounce of dragon fruit has around 20 calories, no cholesterol, and trace amounts of monounsaturated fats (a heart-healthy fat) from the seeds. Dragon fruit is high in vitamins C and A, and the red and magenta varieties are high in lycopene, a fantastic antioxidant.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about a new-to-me fruit of vegetable – I think my last post was about white eggplant – but it’s something I do regularly, and you can see all my new fruit and veggie posts on the My Favorite Posts page.
Keep it up, David!