Dragon fruit (แก้วมังกร)

(Hylocereus undatus / costaricensis / megalanthus)

Dragon fruit (also: pitahaya) is a fruit of liana cactus. I would highly recommend to see gardens, where these plants grow – they look as unusual as the fruit does. Pitahaya blooms in the night and its flowers are pollinated by bats and moths.

You can easily grow your own plant (I’ve planted fresh piece of dragon fruit and now I have several cacti in my house). Just give pitahaya something for climbing – it can be a stick or a little tree. Avoid overwatering, but it’s ok if dragon fruit receives more water than other cacti species, as it grows in humid Thailand.

Wild dragon fruit tree
Wild pitahaya grows up to 15 m. high (long?)

Taste of dragon fruit

Dragon fruit has neutral fresh taste, a bit sweet with a pinch of sour. It reminds of watermelon and kiwi, just imagine that these fruits were dissolved with some water to have a taste not stronger than a cucumber does. Seeds have some nutty flavor.

The flesh of dragon fruit is juicy and tender with evenly spread seeds, I would compare it to a kiwi or a fig. As for me pitaya’s taste is not bright and strong enough, while some people can eat dragon fruit all day long.

Ripe and unripe dragon fruit on a branch
Ripe and unripe fruit on branches

There are several species of dragon fruit – the peel can be pink or yellow and the flesh can be white or purple (like by beetroot). All species taste the same. The most common in Thailand is the pink one with white flesh. Exported dragon fruit has almost the same taste – fruit in Thailand are riper.

How to choose transport & store

Usually in Thailand only ripe and good fruit are for sale. So one just needs to check if the skin begins to fade/dry up (dragon fruit was stored for too long).

Despite of peel’s thickness, it’s too soft. So if pitahaya is pressed, it will be seriously damaged. One can store ripe dragon fruit wrapped in plastic bag in a fridge for 2 (maximum 3) weeks.

Pitahaya tree
See how pitahaya climbs up the building using aerial roots

How to eat dragon fruit

Peel it off and slice it or eat like an apple. Also you can treat dragon fruit like a watermelon – just cut it in halves and eat the flesh with a spoon. Cutting the peel through with the knife doesn’t affect the taste of flesh.

Seeds are edible. To get more nutrients out of them, one should chew the seeds. Flowers of dragon fruit are edible too. Sometimes flowers are used for steeped tea.

Cut dragon fruit
Cut fruits for sale in Big C hypermarket

If one eats too much of dragon fruit with purple flesh, one’s urine and stool will become red. So don’t worry, it’s a temporary effect that doesn’t affect health.

When and where to find pitahaya

In Thailand you will find dragon fruit in any market all year round. The cost starts from 30 THB per 1 kg.

Dragon fruit garden
Dragon fruit garden in Cha Am
Dragon fruit field
Farmers use concrete props with a circle on top to support dragon fruit liana

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