The pitaya or dragon fruit (gao mung gorn) looks to be a cross between something from outer space and something from the abyss. It is the fruit of the vining cactus plant and visually unlike any other fruit.
Looking like an oblong ball of red, fiery green tipped flames, the dragon fruit is a dazzling sight. Available throughout the year, Southeast Asia is a major producer of dragon fruit. Although it requires a more arid climate, it thrives in Thailand.
One legend of the dragon fruit nomenclature credits the Asian market sellers for devising the name to increase sales. They claimed that when the dragon was in battle, it would breath fire before it was slain.
The last thing that would come out of the dragon’s mouth was the dragon fruit. It would then be collected and taken to be given to the emperor as a victorious sign. The market sellers felt that its new name was certainly more appealing and exotic than the pitaya.
When peeled and opened, the dragon fruit yields a wonderfully crunchy texture with a pink color to the flesh. Packed with seeds, the whole fruit inside the rind is edible. Its flavor is similar to a cross between the kiwi and the pear, with a fleshy consistency of a firm melon.
It can be scooped straight out of the rind and eaten raw or sliced and added to fruit salads with other tropical fruit. It is wonderful when puréed and made into a simple frozen sorbet or added to smoothies. It makes great salsas as well as shakes.
The dragon fruit pairs well with passion fruit, papaya, mango and coconut. Because it comes in three varieties, red skin with red flesh, yellow with white flesh and red with white flesh, it is a versatile addition to recipes requiring a visual punch of color. The shell can sometimes even be used as a dish to serve the fruit.
Picking a dragon fruit is relatively simple, as you just need to look for one that has the tips of the fruit slightly turned down. The fruit needs to still be firm and have an overall vibrant color. And not to worry.
The Health Benefits of the Dragonfruit
The health benefits of the dragonfruit are bountiful. It is one of the many super fruits found to grow in Thailand and there is little wonder why this fruit is important to the Thai diet.
The high content of vitamin C in dragon fruit helps to make it a great immune system supporter. It is has properties that aid it in being an antifungal and antiseptic. It also has antioxidants in high amounts, shown to reduce the number of free radicals that build up in our bodies.
High in fiber, the dragon fruit is excellent for preventing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, colorectal cancer and constipation.
Surprisingly, it is high in protein which is good for building muscle and weight loss.
Finally, eating the seeds of the dragon fruit that contain good fat, as opposed to bad fat, can lead to better overall cardiovascular health.
Currently there are no dragons to slay to get your hands on one of these exotic fruits.