Dragon fruit always attracts attention with its bright pinkish-red skin which has protruding green tinted scales.
Beneath its skin, the meat of the fruit is equally striking. The flesh of the most common variety is usually snow white and sprinkled with edible black seeds the size and shape of sesame seeds. There is also a variety with crimson red flesh, which is slightly smaller with a darker red skin. The flesh of both types has the texture of watermelon, but a taste that comes closer to kiwi fruit.
In Thailand you will often see dragon fruits in the markets, and this plant can be seen on many farms around town. But you will probably need to ask a local to point out this very unusual plant. Dragon fruit comes from a type of cactus plant, originating from South America, but now grows all around Asia. This cactus is eco-friendly as it protects the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide at night and then releases air-purifying oxygen.
Dragon fruit plants are grown in fields with water filled trenches between the rows of plants. The plants have a spindly stalk about an inch in diameter that grows up five or six feet high. Like grape vines, the stalks are supported on stakes. At the top of the stalks the fleshy leaves extend out along the supporting wires, giving birth to beautiful white flowers. At night, these flowers bloom with a strong sweet fragrance and attracts bats and moths to pollinate it. The flowers will bloom for just one night before fading away and be replaced by the fruit.
Mildly sweet and best served cold, the dragon fruit is usually eaten fresh as well as used in fruit salads. Researchers found it to be low in calories and high in fibre, with seeds containing polyunsaturated fatty acids, thus it lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure and prevents constipation. The fruit has also been found to be rich in minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, and vitamins B and C as well as antioxidants, which help prevent the formation of carcinogenic free-radicals in the body.
Thailand is located slightly above the equator so the dragon plants flower naturally from March to September. The fruits can be harvested from April to October with approximately 1-2 harvests per month.
To eat dragon fruit, just slice the fruit in half and scoop out the white flesh direct from the skin. Simply delicious!