What’s That Food?

This month’s WTF is pitahaya. Botanically known as Selenicereus megalanthus, the fruits are also known as yellow dragon fruit, yellow pitahaya (sometimes spelled pitaya) or Pitaya Amarillo.

A part of the cactus family, the fruit grows on stems that can grow to 20 feet long. It is native to Central and South America but is now also cultivated in warm climes like Florida, Australia, and other tropical or subtropical areas. It was only in the early 2000s that pitahaya started to be exported to North America and Europe.

The flesh of the yellow pitahaya is dotted with edible seeds Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty

The plant is sometimes grown as an ornamental vine as well, as it produces some of the largest flowers in the cactus family of plants. Smaller than the red or pinkish dragon fruit, this fruit can grow to 10 centimeters long and 7 centimeters wide, in an ovoid shape.

The thick yellow skin is covered in small protrusions which resembles scales, hence the name ‘dragon’ fruit. Thorns protrude from the scales and must be cut off after the fruit is harvested, making it labour intensive to harvest. The skin is not edible.

Cutting into the fruit reveals a firm white flesh dotted with black seeds, all of which are edible. The seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, and the fruit is considered to be a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, as well as calcium. The flesh is similar to the texture of a melon, and the seeds give a crunch like those of a kiwi.

The inside of a pitahaya is juicy and sweet, and is usually also sweeter than the red dragon fruit.

Commonly scooped out and eaten as a snack or dessert, the fruit can be also added to smoothies, or purèed into a sauce or syrup.

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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