Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, looks amazingly dramatic when cut in half, as the photo below illustrates.
Its taste is rather milder than its appearance but its stunning looks and fresh, crisp taste means that it is great in fruit salads or when dried.
The plant is actually a cactus, the skin of the fruit being either pink or yellow with the fruit inside displaying fabulous red flesh with black seeds (hylocereus costaricensis) or the less spectacular, but nevertheless attractive, white flesh (hylocereus undatus). Neither is very sweet but both are crisp, juicy and beneficial for health.
Large, stunning looking white flowers appear magically at night and disappear the next morning. Hand pollinating will assist in the production of fruit if you are growing them in your back yard.
Nutrients in this 'super fruit' include antioxidants and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids and fibre in the many little seeds.
The fruit is said to assist with digestion, wound healing, weight loss, diabetes and high blood pressure, help to prevent the formation of free radicals and strengthen bones and teeth. The dried fruit contains many times more of the health assisting benefits, such as blood glucose normalization, so keep a few pieces handy for snacking on during the day!
If you are wondering how to grow dragon fruit in your garden, it is possible to do so by planting the little black seeds from inside the fruit. Although sometimes thought of as a tropical plant, the dry tropics would seem to be the best location for productive crops as too much rain and moisture can cause the flowers to drop.
Interestingly, this cactus only flowers at night (locally called the moon flower) and is pollinated by moths and fruit bats, as well as other nocturnal creatures. Strongly perfumed, the flower dies when dawn arrives; however, blooming may happen several times each year.
Prepare this wonderful fruit for eating by cutting it in half, scooping out the flesh then dicing it and adding to fruit salad or smoothies – or just eat on its own, one delicious spoonful at a time.