One of the oddest looking exotic fruit grown here in the Fallbrook area is dragon fruit. Despite its scaly appearance, the plant that produces it is in the cacti family. The succulent grows as vines with large flowers that bloom at night and result in grapefruit size fruit that is sweet and juicy.
Originally from Mexico, the fruit is sometimes called pitaya or pitahaya depending on where it comes from. They all have the same green and dark pink skin but with varying colors of flesh from white to pale pink to bright pink to dark pink, almost red.
The variety that come from Vietnam has white flesh that is not as sweet as the ones with pink flesh from Guatemala. All of them have little black seeds which are eaten with the flesh, similar to kiwi fruit.
Like watermelon, the dragon fruit has a high water content and is low in calories. The pink flesh has a lightly sweet flavor – almost watered down – the darker pink flesh having a tangier flavor.
The fruit is best eaten cold. When cut into wedges it is easily peeled or can also be scooped out of the skin like a melon. The middle of the fruit is sweeter than the outer parts.
Local farmer Gray Martin, who has more than 12,000 dragon fruit vines on properties in Rainbow and the western part of Temecula, has seen the fruit made into wine, beer, and juice, as well as sold dried.
Martin said, “I like it in salad. Some use it in smoothies. The red flesh sweet dragon fruit is delicious fresh, and children will eat it non-stop. Dragon fruit is loaded with natural fiber as well as many valuable nutrients and antioxidants!”
A quick search online showed that dragon fruit is also high in vitamin C and B vitamins. It also contains calcium, phosphorus, iron and lycopene while the seeds are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).
Martin’s dragon fruit will be sold at Gelson’s Market starting the end of August – the closest one is in Carlsbad at 7660 El Camino Real. Dragon fruit may be found at organic food markets, Asian markets or farmers markets.
If you find one, give it a try; you will be pleasantly surprised by its taste.