What’s In The Coffee Cup?

October 23, 2011

There is something drinkable in this coffee cup.  What do you think it is?

I’ll gave you a couple hints:

  1. It’s not coffee.
  2. It’s not a hot beverage of any kind.
  3. It’s the juice of a fruit that is rare in this country.

Any guesses?

If you guessed dragon fruit juice, you’re right!  Ding ding ding!  It was the contents of this bottle:

Pitaya is another name for dragon fruit.  I bought a dragon fruit for the first time recently, and on this blog I said that it “may be the most beautiful piece of fruit EVER” (read that post, with lots of dragon fruit photos, here).  The folks over at Bing might have thought similarly, because the very same day my dragon fruit post went up, they used this great dragon fruit picture on their home page (thanks to observant reader Dacia for pointing it out):

That day turned out to be all about dragon fruit, because I also got a great email from Pitaya Plus in which they offered to send me some free juice.  Yes, please!  And that is how the bottle pictured above ended up in my hot little hands.

Since I’m not terribly familiar with the taste of dragon fruit (I’ve only had it once, after all), I bought a couple more dragon fruit after the juice arrived.  A few days ago, I cut one up to enjoy with the Pitaya Plus.  It was a very dragon-fruit-centric lunch!

I roped in my friend Lisa, the gifted graphic designer, to sample both with me.  She had never heard of dragon fruit, so it was all new to her.  We tried the fruit first.  She was as impressed by its appearance as I was, and she was also a little let down by its flavor, like I was.  “It’s not bad, but it doesn’t taste like anything,” she said.  It does have a very mild flavor.

Next we tried the juice, which looks like this:

The juice also has a mild flavor.  It doesn’t actually taste like juice at all!  I don’t normally drink much juice because it’s sweet and delicious and I always end up drinking way too much.  In the past two years, most of the juice I’ve consumed was stuff I’ve juiced myself, where I can monitor how much fruit I use.  Were I to buy a 2 quart bottle of juice, the whole thing would be gone in 36 hours.  And that’s over 1,000 calories in my system.

Pitaya Plus is nowhere as sweet as other juices.  I didn’t finish the juice and immediately want more.  I drank it, enjoyed it, considered myself satisfied, and moved on with my day.  The juice was thin, like watermelon juice is, and the flavor is watermelon-ish and kiwi-ish.  Like the dragon fruit itself, the contents of a Pitaya Plus bottle isn’t nearly as vibrant as the packaging!  But I’d drink it again.  I’d actually like it after a workout, I think.

Dragon fruit juice has significantly fewer calories than other juices.  A serving of Pitaya Plus has 70 calories, compared to 112 calories for orange juice, 128 calories for apple juice, and 140 calories for grape juice.  Which brings me to my little pet peeve about Pitaya Plus:  A serving of it (like most juices) is 8 ounces.  So guess how many ounces are in the bottle?  10.5!  Ugh – I’m not a fan of busting out the calculator to figure out calorie counts, but I did it, because I was curious.  Since 8 ounces is 70 calories, the entire 10.5 ounce bottle is 92.  You’re welcome.

To find more info on Pitaya Plus, check out their website.

I gotta get going… to do burpees!  This is Day 7 for me of the No Excuses 30-Day Burpee Challenge, which means today I’m doing 21 of them.  Since I calculator was already out, I punched the numbers: during Days 1-6 of the Challenge, I did 105 burpees!  WHOA.

Keep it up, David!

Dragon Fruit

October 6, 2011

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!