An interesting, exotic fruit may start showing up in your grocery stores and farmers markets — dragon fruit. It’s striking in both shape and color, and definitely gets one’s curiosity flowing.
What the heck is dragon fruit?
The fruit, also known as “pitaya," is an exotic cactus fruit that grow and thrive in arid places. It's commercially grown mostly in Vietnam and is native to Central America. Dragon fruit bears its name because the flower that grows from the fruit looks like a breath of fire.
There are two different varieties available: white and red. White-flesh dragon fruit is more common. However, both varieties taste the same, and their exteriors look the same. The only way to decipher between the two is to look at the sticker label on the fruit!
Commercial dragon fruit farms are growing in Mexico and Thailand, making these fruits available around the globe. At my home in California, I can buy it at farmers markets and even at local chain grocers.
What does dragon fruit taste like?
Dragon fruit has a very subtle, sweet flavor reminiscent of melon with a texture similar to kiwi. The taste doesn’t pack a big punch like its looks. If eaten before they are ripe, they taste bland and a bit sour. Once ripe, they taste ever so slightly sweet and syrupy.
How can you tell if they’re ripe?
Remember, the two colors of dragon fruit are completely separate — the white flesh does not turn pink, and vice versa. When ripe, the two types remain the same color (either white or red). From the surface, they look identical.
Dragon fruit are ripe when the skin is even in color and the wings are yellow (though a bit of green is OK) and the edges are starting to brown. If the skin has dark spots or splotches, it may be over ripe. If the skin is a combination of green and red, and firm to the touch, it’s not yet ripe. Dragon fruit can be kept at room temperature or wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
How do you eat dragon fruit?
Dragon fruit has gained popularity because of all its beneficial qualities (and its good looks). It’s packed with vitamin C, fiber and its seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. Because the flavor is so subtle, dragon fruit is most common in smoothies or frozen bowls blended with other fruits.
The easiest way to eat a dragon fruit is to wash it, cut it length-wise or cross-wise and eat the flesh with a spoon. For easy flesh extraction, cut it into quarters and peel the skins back, starting from the pointed edge. You can also freeze the peeled fruit for easy use in smoothies.
Want to give dragon fruit a try? Here are a few quick recipes.
Tropical fruit salad
Makes 4-6 servings
- 1 whole dragon fruit (or ½ red + ½ white)
- 1 starfruit
- 2 ripe mangos
- ½ small papaya
- Coconut water
- Cut the dragon fruit into quarters and peel the skins off. Dice into small pieces, about ½".
- Peel and dice mangoes and papaya into a similar size.
- Cut the starfruit cross-wise into thin ¼" slices. Save a few stars for garnish and dice the rest.
- Place all fruit into a large bowl and toss together. Dress with a couple tablespoons of coconut water and serve! Refrigerate any leftover in an airtight container.
Dragon fruit smoothie
Makes 2-3 servings.
- 1 dragon fruit
- 1 ripe mango
- 1 cup strawberries (about 5-6 large berries)
- 1 banana
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- Honey to taste
- Splash of coconut water
- Chop up the fruit, except the banana, ahead of time and freeze.
- Place frozen fruit, banana, yogurt, about a tablespoon of honey and a splash of coconut water in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Add more coconut water to loosen the consistency to your liking.
Makes one serving
- 1 dragon fruit
- Coconut water
- Toppings: shredded coconut, granola, sliced banana, sliced strawberries, blueberries
- Honey (optional)
- Chop and freeze dragon fruit flesh ahead of time.
- Blend the fruit with a splash of coconut water until the mixture is smooth but still thick.
- Spoon the blended mixture into a bowl and top with granola, coconut flakes, sliced berries, etc. Drizzle with honey if desired.
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