Thursday, January 19, 2012

Alien Ingredient #6: Dragon Fruit

I've known of these so-called dragon fruits for a very long time and I've seen lots of them around before, but none of them have seemed ripe enough for me to ever want to buy, until now. Spending some of my formative years in Texas (and specifically, crawling the bodegas and mercados), I have a good bit of experience with cactus fruits of many types, so I had a good idea that the hard bricks I had seen before were not ripe. This particular one was bright red and yielding, good signs of ripeness. Here you see it in comparison to a 48-count navel orange.

It turns out that I have grown the cacti that yield these fruits without ever connecting the dots—mine never fruited. The fruits are often called pitayas (pitaya blanca, Hylocereus undatus, with white flesh, and pitaya roja, H. costaricensis, with screaming fuschia flesh) and come from cacti that originated in Mexico and Central America, cacti that we often lump together under the common name Night-Blooming Cereus. They really do bloom at night (and for one night only!) and when they open, the white and cream blooms are spectacular and particularly fragrant.

The flesh of the fruit is white with small black seeds. Unlike the seeds in prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) fruits (tunas in Spanish), these seeds are small and barely noticeable when you eat them. Based on my experience with other cactus fruit, I was expecting to have to separate the seeds from the flesh and then make candy, agua fresca, sorbet, or jelly with the flesh. This fruit is very pleasant to eat from the rind with a spoon and is firm enough to dice for a fruit salsa. The firm but yielding flesh tastes first of pear (without the granular stone cells) and finishes with hints of strawberry and kiwi. It is not particularly sweet, just delicious.

Vote: yes, please! But not at $3.99 each!

1 comment:

  1. I've never had Dragon fruit, but it looks interesting and I love the idea of trying it in salsa.