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Dragon Fruit from A to Z: 26 Things to Know

Dragon Fruit from A to Z: 26 Things to Know

What is dragon Fruit? 26 interesting facts and figures about this delicious tropical fruit used to create tasty drinks and desserts.

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Amarilla. This is the name of a dragon fruit variety with a yellow peel, also called “yellow pitaya" (its botanical name is Selenicereus megalanthus). The flesh is white with lots of edible black seeds, this being a characteristic common to all types of dragon fruit.

Blanca. Another term used to indicate the white-fleshed variety (botanical name: Hylocereus undatus) which, in this case, has a pinkish-red peel: this is the most common variety of all to be found on world markets.

Ching He Huang. The famous author and presenter of the BBC programme Chinese Food Made Easy has presented dragon fruit (together with lychees) in this exotic reinterpretation of the Pavlova dessert.

Dragon Blood Punch and co. The juice of this fruit is also used to aromatize and colour many non-alcoholic beverages, as well as cocktails such Dragon's Blood Punc and Pitahaya Margaritas.

Etymology. The scientific name of the Hylocereus genus derives from the Greek word "hyle" (indicating woody material) and from the Latin "cereus" (meaning wax-like, referring to the look of the peel). On the other hand, the Latin adjective "undatus" (identifying the more common white-fleshed variety) refers to the undulated appearance of the ripe fruit.

Flowers. Its highly scented flowers are edible and, when dried, can also be used to make herbal brews.

Gourmet. The flavour and unusual texture of dragon fruit have seduced chefs of all latitudes, comprising pastry chefs: the red variety is used to make ice-cream, sorbet, creamy desserts, jams and jellies, in a bright magenta red colour or in various shades of pink. It also confers a special touch to savoury dishes: José Andrés of the China Poblano in Las Vegas, for instance, has used it in a sauce on which to serve the fried quails of his famous dish named Like Water for Chocolate.

Hylocereus. A genus of succulent plants belonging to the Cactacee family gives us this fruit. Originally from Mexico and subsequently introduced to other parts of Central America, the fruit was later exported and grown throughout the world: from south east Asia (for example Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia) to Bangladesh, from Japan (Okinawa) to China, as well as Australia, Israel, Cyprus, USA (Hawaii and California), the Canary Islands...

Indefinable. Apart from the red variety (see roja), dragon fruit has a somewhat indefinable taste, somewhere between a kiwi and a pear, while others say it recalls watermelon, melon or prickly pear.

John Whaite. The celebrity chef, patissier, chocolatier and author of acclaimed recipe books (John Whaite Bakes and John Whaite Bakes At Home), has created this Arabian Night Tart, presented in the third edition of the Great British Bake Off  which he actually won, in which dragon fruit (plus grapes, pomegranate, blueberries and almonds) complete a pastry case with pistachio frangipane and cardamom flavoured custard.

Kcal. 100 g of dragon fruit amounts to no more than 36 kcal.

Luke Nguyen. The Australian chef of Vietnamese origin, owner of the Red Lantern restaurant in Sydney, has included this fruit in his recipe for The Food of Vietnam, as one of the many variants of Sinh to, alias the popular Vietnamese shakes combining fresh fruit and condensed milk.

Mexico. Here it grows wild in gardens and forests, from the Yucatan to Baja California, from Quintana Roo to Oaxaca not to mention Jalisco, Veracruz, Chiapas and Tabasco...

Nutritional facts. Dragon fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, especially the red variety which would also appear to be particularly rich in calcium. The yellow-peeled variety on the other hand is characterized by a higher content of phosphorus. However, both are rich in vitamin E and B-group vitamins, as well as fibre, mineral salts and lycopene.

Oval-shaped. It has an oval shape slightly reminiscent of the artichoke, also because of its odd leafy protuberances. A single fruit can even grow to 15 cm in length, while its weight can vary between 150 and 600 grams.

Pitaya (or pitahaya). It goes under this name throughout South America. However, elsewhere in the world it is known as dragon fruit, or even strawberry pear (in English-speaking countries), skogkaktus (Sweden), panini-o-ka-puna-hou (Hawaii), catobarse (Portugal), thanh long (Vietnam), poire de chardon (France), maasik-metskaktus (Estonia), huǒ lóng guǒ (China) and kaeo mangkon (Thailand). 

Queen of the night.  Hylocereus flowers blossom only once and, what’s more, only at night (which explains why they are called "Moonflowers"): as soon as the day breaks, the sun starts to dry their petals, which fall to the ground, revealing the budding fruit, which will develop into its unusual red or yellow oval “ball” shape enclosed in a thick waxy skin.

Roja. The pitaya roja is the variety which stands out for the particularly bright red colour of its flesh, a shade that is almost magenta: it is also called costaricensis (or Hylocereus polyrhizus). While the white-fleshed varieties have a blander flavour, this one has a taste recalling a strawberry and raspberry mixture.

Stenocerus (or sour pitayas). This variety is widespread in the Sonoran desert (an eco region comprising Arizona, California and the Mexican region of Sonora): also known as the pitaya agria, it is sourer in taste and refreshing, thanks to its juicy flesh.

Tyalgum Purple Dragon Fruit.  A rare and rather special variety, this type of dragon fruit is considered to be of superior quality. Its creamy white flowers, as large as a teacup saucer, produce fruits sized like a cricket ball with a brown peel. The flesh, which is compact, firm and sweet with notes of honey, has such a bright colour of purple as to be almost phosphorescent.

USA. In 2008, the US Department of Agriculture signed an agreement with Vietnam, one of the world’s main producers, regarding the importation of dragon fruit to the United States of America. The popularity of this fruit and the great adaptability of the plant has encouraged some Californian farmers to make the first attempts at growing it in the US.

Vodka. The dragon fruit mania of recent years has also inspired a Dragon Fruit Flavoured Vodka: however, according to barmen and experts, this infusion would seem to be more suitable for use in mixology (in Dragon Martini, for instance) rather than for drinking neat, owing to the fact that it is almost excessively sweet with unexpected notes of strawberry and cherry.

Wiki-How. In search of hints and techniques on how to cut and extract the flesh from a dragon fruit? You will find them here together with three very simple ideas (kebab, sorbet and smoothie) that are quick and simple to make.

XIX century. Apparently, French missionaries were the first to export the fruit from central America to south east Asia, where it was redubbed "dragon fruit". This name is supposed to derive from a legend, according to which, this fruit was the last breath exhaled by a dragon defeated in battle.

Yucatan. Street vendors at the Mercado Santa Ana habitually prepare agua fresca de pitahaya, a refreshing beverage of dragon fruit juice and water (some also add a twist of lime).

Ziix is ccapxl. Literally meaning "the thing whose fruit is sour", this is the name given by the Seri, a native tribe of the Mexican state of Sonora, to the more acidic variety of dragon fruit.

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