With its large pink and green spiky exterior, dragon fruit is hard to miss in a store. Its distinctive colour and shape stands out among the perfectly round apples and oranges and makes you wonder just what it might taste like.

The dragon fruit, or pitaya, is native to Central America but is also grown and exported from several Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam. It is known as ‘thang loy’ in Vietnam. It is actually a cactus species called Hylocereus and has adapted to live in dry tropical climates with a moderate amount of rain. The cacti bloom at night, and rely on nocturnal fliers like bats and moths to pollinate them. After pollination, the dragon fruit sets on the cactus-like trees and is ready for harvesting 30–50 days after flowering. Depending on the environment, there can sometimes be five or six cycles of harvests on a plant per year.

Slice a dragon fruit in half lengthwise and it reveals a white centre with black, edible, crunchy seeds. Scoop out the flesh and eat it as is (the skin is inedible), or put the fruit into a smoothie. It is mildly sweet, with a soft pear-like texture, except for the seeds, which have a similar texture to the seeds in a kiwi. The flowers can be also be eaten or steeped as tea.

The red and purple colors of Hylocereus fruits are due to betacyanins, a family of pigments that includes betanin, the same substance that gives beets, Swiss chard, and amaranth their red color. Dragon fruit contains carotene, protein, vitamin C, polyunsaturated (good) fatty acids, B vitamins, and calcium.

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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