Once in a while I go out in search of produce to write about and usually I come up with the kind of results I’d expect that fall into the two categories of “produce I like” and “produce I don’t like.” But I’ve now encountered an entirely third option: “Produce I’ve never heard of.” In searching I discovered something called a dragonfruit, and while I have no idea what that actually is, I’m intensely curious. Do you know what a dragonfruit is? Well if not let’s find out together on today’s produce spotlight!
Dragonfruit Culture and History
For something as awesomely named as “dragonfruit,” you’d assume it had to have had a killer origin story, but unfortunately that’s not exactly the case. Most produce origin stories are little more than “and then it eventually started growing because of fortunate circumstances,” but just once I’d like to find out that some produce appeared because it was bitten by a radioactive pineapple or something. Either way, the dragonfruit’s exact date of first cultivation seems to be lost, or perhaps just unresearched.
But even if we don’t know specifically when they appeared, we know that they appeared in Central America first…I think. Dragonfruit are actually called “pitaya” in the majority of the world, but I don’t want to waste a name as cool as “dragonfruit” so I’m sticking with the less common term. Since its cultivation some mysterious number of years ago, dragonfruit have spread all over South America, Central America, and Mexico.
Apparently, the French were responsible for the fruit’s exodus to Europe and Asia, specifically Vietnam. The French found the fruit in Colombia and Nicaragua and decided to take it to Vietnam for some reason, which worked great for the Vietnamese as they now consider it an indigenous fruit of their country and an integral part of their economy since they export it all over Southeast Asia.
Health Benefits of Dragonfruit
Dragonfruit is one of those things that sounds ridiculously cool but when you learn more about it you discover that it’s just another fruit when you get down to it. Sure, cool name and everything, but it’s essentially what you’d expect, including being a great source of vitamin C, containing a bunch of antioxidants, and having a nice mixture of dietary fibers without a lot of calories.
Of the vitamins and minerals on tap, there are some little amounts of calcium, iron, and phosphorus, but nothing too extreme, which is actually odder than anything else about the fruit thus far. Still, it’s yet another fruit that can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, plus it can alleviate chronic respiratory tract problems. Hey that’s new!
What I do find rather interesting is how dragonfruit is used in Taiwan as a substitute for rice in diabetic meals, something I never would have thought of. Also, the fruit has the ability to increase the removal of heavy metal toxins during bathroom time, yet another unique ability found here. Sadly though, you don’t gain any special powers from eating the fruit or learn some new truth about mystic forces or any of that. Perhaps insisting on calling it “dragonfruit” over its more common “pitaya” name is a mistake on my part. …Nah, dragonfruit sounds awesome and they sure do look the part.
Eating More Dragonfruit
For me, finding a dragonfruit is turning out to be a rather tricky problem as, come to think of it, I’ve never actually seen one in real life. Seems that eating more of them is going to be harder than I thought and may require importing some specially from elsewhere in the world, which is already sort of a waste as there are so many fruits already here that do just as much and in some cases more than the dragonfruit.
Once cut open you’ll see what looks like cookies n’ cream ice cream or poppy seed muffins, but it’s actually just the flesh of the fruit. I’ve absolutely never seen anything like it and how zero idea what it’ll taste like, but from what people say it’s very similar to a watered-down kiwi both in taste and texture thanks to the little black seeds, which can be eaten but require chewing to be digestible.
If you do come across some dragonfruit at your local supermarket, some good ideas for recipes include sorbet, juice, smoothies, salads, or just by themselves. Half of the fun is enjoying the sweet taste with the little seeds, so those looking for something that’s both unique and familiar at the same time may really dig dragonfruit.
Great, now I have an extreme craving for dragonfruit. Who else is feeling this same craving? Do you love dragonfruit already and eat it frequently? And do you have a recipe to share perhaps? Leave a comment and let me know! The great dragon demands it!