Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Dragonfruit

This gorgeous cactus fruit is also known as the pitaya or strawberry pear. But I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan. When people talk about dragonfruit, they're usually praising its health benefits rather than the taste. And while dragonfruit is a good source of vitamin C and high in dietary fiber, I'm not keen on paying high exotic fruit prices for something that's going to taste bland. Hubby Kris, however, is so mesmerized by the dragonfruit's beauty that he has to buy one everytime he sees it.

There are three varieties of dragonfruit: red skin/white flesh (most common variety), red skin/red flesh, and yellow skin/white flesh. We've tried the red skin varieties and in my opinion they both tasted pretty boring and a bit sour. I gave my dragonfruit-lovin' hubby a chance for his rebuttal here, but he eventually admitted to me that his main reason for liking dragonfruit is for its "good looks" (typical man response). But the brilliant magenta flesh of the hylocereus costaricensis variety is rather stunning, especially as part of an exotic fruit plate or used as a colorful garnish.


While on vacation in Vancouver last month, we found dragonfruit at several produce markets but I only let Kris buy one. Since we had no clue how to choose a ripe one, Kris just picked the prettiest one in the bunch, cradling it in his arms all the way to the cash register. We then forgot about it for several days, too busy being tourists in Vancouver. My mom finally reminded us to eat it before it went bad.


Very easy to eat, just cut in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon:


I was going to let Kris have the entire thing, but he convinced me to give it another try. I was pleasantly surprised - this was the first dragonfruit I'd had that was actually sweet. The flavor and texture reminded me of a juicy pear with crunchy edible seeds (like a kiwi). Good thing we'd forgotten about the dragonfruit for a few days, giving it time to properly ripen. The stem and a few edges of the outside leaves were starting to dry up, and the fruit had a bit of give when you pressed it. I guess most of the commercially available dragonfruit are sold underripe, which is probably why they've always tasted sour to me.


I found out later that dragonfruit is also known for its natural laxative properties. Good thing we only ate one!




Where to buy:

Specialty food markets/Asian food markets
or your local Chinatown

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15 comments:

5 Star Foodie said...

I don't think I've seen Dragonfruit at my supermarket but if I ever do I would love to try it. Is it always just eaten raw or are there any dishes that can be prepared with it?

Phyllis said...

5 Star Foodie: Mostly eaten raw - the flavor is so mild that there's no point cooking with it. Unless you find the red-fleshed kind and want to make funky colored sauce or dressing with it. Slices of the fruit would make an interesting garnish on anything. You could also scoop out the fruit and use the pretty shell to present a dessert in. Unfortunately, it's all about the looks with this fruit rather than the taste.

KennyT said...

Hi Phyllis, I am not a big fan of dragonfruit too. Heard that these fruits are good for men, dunno if it's a myth though.

Jenn said...

So that's what it's called. I've seen it before and I wasn't sure what it was either. Thanks for the little insight to this mysterious fruit.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Oh, this is cool, a weird food that I have actually tried. Like Kris, I have always been interested by this fruit. Its so pretty on the inside and the outside. I got to try it when I was in la boqueria in barcelona. I had a red one with a white inside. It looked a lot better than it tasted. It just didn't have that much flavour. I agree with your comment though, it would be a gorgeous addition to a fruit salad.

OysterCulture said...

I love this fruit, the first time I had it fresh was in HK where it was everywhere. They sell it dried at TJs, but definitely not the same!

Just watched the Montreal video where they showed the making of the dragon candy - so cool!

Phyllis said...

Kenny: HA! Now I can tell hubby that I'm not the only one who doesn't like it!

Jenn: no prob, that's what I'm here for!

Heavenly Housewife: YAY! One weird food down, and tons to go! Dragonfruit is a bit of letdown - so gorgeous on the outside and then blah on the inside.

OysterCulture: Like with all exotic fruit, I guess the best place to taste them is in Asia. A new TJ location is opening soon by me, so then I'll get to try all their dried fruits. And so glad you got to see how the dragon's beard candy was made, hopefully you get to see it live next time!

mira said...

this is not weird.. hmm.. r u classifying tis weird? huuhu.. my neighbour, my mum and even my own colleagues are planting tis fruit in their back yard.. hehe.. easy to grow.. but needs A LOT of sunlight otherwise it wont fruit.. :( hehe.. i dont really like the taste.. to me its tasteless.. dont u think so?? and the seeds.. .urghh.. :(

Phyllis said...

Mira: haha - I think most people in North America are not aware of this particular fruit, which is why I considered it weird! I'm not surprised that everyone in Malaysia is growing it in the backyard! I guess it's like starfruit or 'jombu'(local apple)-Kris and I love them because they're still considered a novelty in the US, but all my relatives in Malaysia laugh because they're so common that they let the fruits rot all over their backyard. And yeah, dragonfruit is pretty tasteless!

mira said...

hehe.. no la.. thats not what i meant.. to rot in the backyard.. hehe..

its was the in-thing u know! everywhere i go, i see em growing.. hmmph.. didnt knew why it was such a craze.. yuck.. heheh.. (excusssee me.. ) about a year ago, everyone started planting, soon the price dropped as well.. so thats when u see them rot.. here there everywhere.. hehehe.. very as in VERY tasteless yet mum says its good for the skin.. women la.. n for men.. sperm production.. :p~ hehehehhe...

Tangled Noodle said...

I have to say that it is one of the prettiest fruits I've ever seen. I've spotted the dried version but dessicated and wrinkled is never a good look for anything or anybody! 8-)

Thanks for the tip on knowing its ripeness - it will hopefully come in handy if I'm ever fortunate to come across a fresh dragonfruit.

Phyllis said...

mira: hsha - so that's what Kenny meant when he said these fruits are "good for men"!!!

Tangled Noodle: Yes, the dragonfruit is absolutely gorgeous! It's like the siren/seductress of all fruit. I actually caught hubby trying to special order it at Wegman's today :)

Amanda said...

You need to try a yellow dragonfruit. It's the only one that actually has a taste, and it's really yummy. :)

Phyllis said...

Hi Amanda! Thanks for the advice, I will definitely try the yellow kind if I ever come across it!

Anonymous said...

dragon fruit is actually very sweet and tasty when it's properly ripe. i think most people say it's tasteless probably because when they ate it, it wasn't very ripe yet. my dad will occasionally buy it home and we would always enjoy the sweetness of it. for those of u who say it's tasteless, maybe give it another try? just make sure it's ripe this time. hehe. oh, and stay away from dragonfruit drinks. i think those are pretty tasteless (they probably used not very ripe dragonfruits)