Have you been seeing a vibrant pink fruit with green or yellow tails coming off of it more often these days? Have you asked, “What is that?” or “Hmm, should I try this?”? Well, you are not alone!
Dragon fruit seems to be showing up more often in grocery stores as a whole food product in the produce section or in the freezer section as well as in food photography and in recipes. It is also being packaged as dehydrated chips, premium sorbet, an energy drink flavor, and more.
This blog post will delve into the specifics of dragon fruit to include what it is, where it originated, what are its nutritional benefits, and how to eat it. By the end, you will be excited to take your first bite!
What is Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit actually grows on a climbing cactus known as Hylocereus in tropical regions of the world. Central America calls it “pitaya” while Asia calls it “strawberry pear.” Americans (or English speakers) call it dragon fruit, due to its spikes resembling fire and its scales resembling a dragon.
It is dressed in a vibrant pink coat with yellow or green “flames.” You can also find a yellow coated variety, too. The white or pink interior is speckled with black seeds. It is definitely one of the prettiest and unique fruits in terms of appearance, in my opinion.
It has a taste that is mildly sweet, and the texture of the juicy flesh is more in line with a kiwi. Others have compared it to a pear or even watermelon and have said it has a crunch to its texture. Beware, the taste can be rather bland and possibly sour if the fruit is not ripe.
A ripe dragon fruit will be soft to the touch when lightly squeezed, like a ripened peach or pear. It should not be too mushy (overripe) or too firm (not ripened). However, if it is firm, you can simply leave it on your kitchen countertop for a few days for it to ripen.
June to September (summer) is the main, fresh dragon fruit season with its peak being in August and September.
When did dragon fruit originate?
Chinese folklore has referenced dragon fruit in fables. Legends say a dragon fruit is the last thing to come out of a fire-breathing dragon’s mouth after being slayed. Once the dragon is beaten, the warrior would gather the fruit and present it to the Emperor.
Did you know the cactus flower of dragon fruit only lives one night? The climbing cactus produces a beautiful pink or yellow flower, known as “Moonflower” or “Queen of the Night.” It blooms from evening to midnight and then withers in the daytime sun. Despite the flower dying in a day, the cactus bears fruit around six times each year.
Where is dragon fruit grown?
Dragon fruit is native to Mexico, South America and Central America. It is grown in Asia, Israel, and Turkey, too. The 3 US states that grow it commercially are California, Florida, and Hawaii. It is shipped around the world and can be purchased in grocery stores across the US. The majority of US imports come from Southeast Asia, namely Vietnam.
According to this fun fact sheet, dragon fruit has many varieties, such as the following:
- Harpua is medium sized and has a melon flavor.
- Purple Haze has few seeds, a kiwi-like flavor, and grow up to two pounds each.
- Makisupa has pale pink and green skin and bright pink flesh, and it leaves the mouth
- Vietnamese Jaina is Vietnam’s #1 dragon fruit variety for export.
- Voodoo Child is egg-sized and has a very sweet, grape-like taste.
Why eat dragon fruit?
If you like exploring new and different foods, then trying a dragon fruit is a must. Plus, you will be indulging in something healthy for yourself that is fun and delicious.
Some of the benefits of eating dragon fruit are:
- Antioxidants like flavonoids, phenolic acid, and betacyanin
- High in fiber, which can help control blood sugar
- Naturally sodium free, which is helpful if following a low sodium diet
- High water content at 83% moisture
- Vitamins and nutrients like vitamin C and potassium
This study on the process of making dragon jelly had to breakdown it contents. It states dragon fruit pulp contains 82.5-83% moisture, 0.16-0.23% protein, 0.21-0.61% fat, 0.7-0.9% fiber, 6.3-8.8 mg calcium, 30.2-36.1 mg phosphorous, 0.5-061 mg iron, and 8-9 mg vitamin C. So, dragon fruit appears to have even more nutrients than what some main-stream articles may post.
If you want to read more research, this study looked at the fruits “potential for the prevention of diseases associated with inflammatory and oxidative processes” and this review is on its “phytochemical constituents” and “pharmacological activities.”
According to the USDA FoodData Central website, there are 117 branded products that pop up when one searches for dragon fruit, ranging from sorbet to energy drinks. That’s quite a bit, and I’m sure we will start seeing more!
One such brand provided a nutrition label for the fruit in its natural form:
As you can see, the label provides wonderful information on dragon fruit.
- It is naturally low in calories with only 80 calories per cup
- It is naturally sodium free
- It is an excellent source of fiber at 5 grams per serving, which helps keep you feeling full for longer
- It contains necessary nutrients for your body, like potassium at 6% daily value and vitamin C at 8% daily value (based on an average American 2,000 calorie diet)
Bonus: It is one carb choice at 15 grams of carbohydrates for each 1 cup serving, for those monitoring their carbohydrate intake.
How do you eat dragon fruit?
As with any fruit, the use of dragon fruit is only limited to one’s imagination or creativity. I have seen dragon fruit eaten plain, blended in smoothies, and incorporated in salads. Where have you seen it?
To enjoy it in its raw state, simply cut the fruit with a knife lengthwise and spoon out the soft center of flesh or cut it into slices. FYI, the skin is not edible. You can store leftovers in the fridge up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 3 months.
Here is a smoothie recipe to try!
I hope you enjoyed this post on the specifics of dragon fruit and are ready to go find one yourself to try! Be sure to let me know why you enjoyed it or a new way you incorporated it into your daily eating habits. Also, let me know if you have any foods you’d like to see highlighted!