Enjoy A Fruitful Fall with the Season’s New Darling – the Delicious and Dramatic Dragon Fruit
As Americans continue to explore their local Farmers Markets, and expand their culinary arsenals with healthier, cleaner, and less processed foods, many more unique fruits and vegetables have been gaining in popularity over the past few years. One such fruit is Dragon Fruit, favored for both for its sweet but mellow flavoring and dense nutrient content. Plus, lets face it, it’s become an international icon via Instagram, where its beautiful fuchsia tones (of the pink fleshed varietal) and unusual textures have made it a photogenic super star. So get ready to explore this under-rated Chef favorite and darling of the internet – from the basics to nutrition, to preparation and creative recipe ideas – we’ve got you covered!
So Just What is a “Dragon Fruit”?
Easily recognizable, the Dragon Fruit (or Pitaya/Pitahaya as it’s called in its native environs) has a very distinctive appearance – being covered in a series of thick bright red/pink leaves (similar to those on an Artichoke) which taper off into pronounced green spine-like tips curving up and off the surface, giving it a wild and slightly “out of this world” appearance. The Pitaya’s source is as unique as its appearance, as you may imagine it stemming from a tropical tree in a lush jungle paradise somewhere, however the “tree” it actually comes from is a Cactus!
Filled with a spongy white to pink succulent flesh containing numerous edible tiny black seeds (it is because of the similarity of texture and seeds that its often compared to the Kiwi Fruit) the flavor of its juicy flesh is mildly sweet and fruity. Compared to its flamboyant appearance, the flesh is surprisingly mild in contrast, its flavor more akin to the mellow sweetness of a pear or slightly unripe melon than that of some of its strongly flavored tropical compatriots. The pink fleshed varieties typically have a slightly brighter and sweeter flavor.
Picking Hint: if you want it at its most deliciously sweet wait until the ends of the spine leaves start to dry up and the skin softens and reaches a bright deep red.
As always the Intuitive Forager, Kerry Clasby, is dedicated to sourcing the very best in independently and organically grown produce – and in the case of Dragon Fruit it’s no different! In Kerry’s Words:
“Our Dragon Fruit comes to us from just up the coast in Ventura County (CA) and has been perfected on one farm – with over 17 years of growth and research used to create the perfect example of this fruit – and (of course) is sold exclusively through The Intuitive Forager!”
Types of Pitaya:
Dragon Fruit/Sweet Pitaya (Hylocereus Family) – These are the variety of Pitaya that are most common here in the US and abroad and which are commonly referred to as “Dragon Fruit” (a reflection of the fruits vernacular Asian names). These sweet varietals come in 3 main types: Pitaya Blanca (Pink/Red Skin, White Flesh), Pitaya Roja (Red Skin, Pink Flesh) and Pitaya Amarilla (Yellow Skin, White Flesh) – and it’s the first varietal that once again, is what most people are referring to as “Dragon Fruit”.
Sour Pitaya/Pitaya Agria (Stenocereus Family) – Are native to the more arid regions of the Americas. These varietals tend to have a stronger and more sour flavor (than the common red varietals found in US Farmers Markets), and a juicier more refreshing flesh. Additional related varietals of Sour Pitaya come from the Dagger Cactus and the Organ Pipe Cactus. You most likely wont come across these Sour Pitaya’s unless you venture South of the Border.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition: In addition to it’s high water content and ample Potassium, Carotene, Protein, and Vitamin C, Dragon Fruit shows up on your Super Food lists as it contains a surprising level of both Phytonutrients and Antioxidants. The red fleshed varietals get their coloring from Lycopenes, anti-oxidants known for their cancer fighting properties as well as lowering blood pressure and helping protecting against heart disease. The edible seeds are also high in polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 and 6 Fatty Acids.
Dragon Fruit in the Kitchen:
Even though the Dragon Fruit’s flesh is soft and juicy, it also has some crunch and so still holds its shape when cut, and so in addition to fresh eating, it also makes a viable and delicious addition to fruit salads (especially those with other tropical fruits) and Salsas. It’s also great with desserts, or on top of your favorite breakfast selection, whether that’s yogurt, oatmeal, or even waffles. Juice it and add to a fruity cocktail – or puree for a frozen twist. You can also puree the flesh and combine with sugar and freeze to make your own sorbets and sherbets.
If you’re an “Acai Bowl” fan try making your own “Dragon Fruit Bowl” with your pureed flesh. Its high levels of Vitamin C (one cup = 190% of your recommended daily amount), Calcium, Fiber, and both Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (contained in the seeds) make the Dragon Fruit a great immunity boosting, nutrient rich and filling ingredient to add some light sweetness to your daily juicing and smoothie concoctions.
You also might try renowned New York Chef David Bouley’s intuitive twist with Dragon Fruit. He takes a perfectly prepared piece of wild caught salmon – places medallion cube Dragon Fruit and delicately sliced avocados on top with a zest of lemon – it’s so delicious!
Like we mentioned in the Intro, Dragon Fruit (especially the magenta hued variety) has become a mega Instagram Star, mainly because of its nutrients combined with its kick of color (can you say photogenic?) perfect for smoothies and breakfast bowls. Here’s some of our favorite recipe links for consuming your Dragon Fruit in the AM: (Clockwise from Upper Left)
Dragon Fruit Smoothie Bowl from the Sunkissed Kitchen:
Dragon Fruit Smoothie:
Kiwi Dragon Fruit Green Smoothie Bowl from Smile Sandwich:
Coconut, Pitaya, and Pineapple Pancakes from Corina Nielsen:
(Clockwise from Upper Left)
Dragon Fruit Salad:
Dragon Fruit Salad with Mandarins from Wander Spice:
Dragon Fruit Salad:
Dragon Fruit Rainbow Rolls from One Green Planet:
Dragon Fruit Salsa:
Seared Tuna with Dragon Fruit Salsa: