The dragon fruit is unlike any other fruit, in appearance or taste. It is not produced by a tree but rather from a fruit-bearing species of cacti which is native to Central and South America. Today, it is commercially cultivated in Southeast Asia.
While the dragon fruit’s name might sound intimidating, it has a beautiful appearance and delicious to eat. The fruit has bright pink or yellow skin, consisting of overlaid leaves that look like scales (which is probably how the dragon fruit got its name). Depending on the variety, the rind can be white, red or dark magenta; juicy, mildly sweet and filled with tiny, black edible seeds. Because it has only risen in popularity very recently, the dragon fruit is still regarded as exotic in many parts of the world. Here are some fun facts about this one-of-a-kind fruit.
- Dragon fruit is also known as strawberry pear or pitaya.
- The best time to pick dragon fruits is when they are mature, as they are at their height of sweetness. Mature fruits that are not harvested will continue to grow larger but not sweeter.
- The red-fleshed variety of dragon fruit contains lycopene, the same antioxidant found in tomatoes. Lycopene helps in lowering the risk of cancer, hypertension and heart disease.
- Despite its unusual appearance, the dragon fruit is similar to the more average-looking fruits in that it contains several nutrients that are good for the body. These include B-complex vitamins and Vitamin C; iron, calcium, phosphorus and antioxidants.
- The dragon fruit’s seeds also contribute to its nutritional benefit. They contain protein as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that can help prevent cardiovascular diseases. The seeds also have a mild laxative effect.
- Taiwanese doctors are said to recommend dragon fruits to patients with diabetes, to help normalize blood sugar levels.
- A concoction made of dragon fruit, honey, and cucumber juice can moisturize and soothe sunburned skin.
- Dragon fruit is usually eaten fresh but Nicaraguans are fond of drinking a beverage made from crushed dragon fruit, water and lime juice. Another way to enjoy dragon fruit is to combine it with other fruits to make a refreshing fruit salad or to mix it in a smoothie.
- The cactus flower that produces dragon fruit survives only a single night. It blooms in the evening, ready for pollination by baths and moths, and wilts the very next day. The very brief pollination period, however, is sufficient for the plant to bear fruits.
- Eating too much red-colored dragon fruit can give rise to a harmless condition called pseudohematuria, which can turn urine reddish.