It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever tasted or held one in your hands, I think you’d agree that pitahayas are one of the most interesting, exotic and beautiful fruits in existence. A couple of days ago I got to eat pitahaya again for the second time in my life. Last time I simply ate the fruit and this time I not only ate it by itself but also blended it up into a refreshing drink. Before we get to the simple recipe I’d like to share 10 facts about this hot pink coloured fruit.
- Pitahayas are also know as pitayas, dragon fruit, strawberry pear or nanettika fruit.
- It doesn’t matter the name you know them by, did you know they grow on cactus? That’s right these fruits grow on the Hylocereus cactus trees. They have white flowers that bloom only at night: “Pitahaya’s bloom only at night, and only last one night where pollination is necessary to set fruit.”
3.That cacti that produce pitahayas is originally native to Mexico. Sometime in history they began spreading across Central American. The Europeans then transplanted it to other areas of the world: The French introduced them to Vietnam, the Dutch to Taiwan. Currently pitahayas are grown in Mexico, Central America, Australia, Israel, China, Cyprus, America and countless East and Southeast Asian countries.
- There are 3 colours (types) of pitahaya fruits. The ones you see here are Hylocereus undatus or the white-fleshed pitahaya fruits. Their outer skin colour is the same as the Hylocereus costaricensis variety which has a red flesh. Lastly there is a variety called Hylocereus megalanthus with an outer yellow skin colour and a white inner flesh. Out of the three, the white-fleshed variety is the most common. Unfortunately I’ve yet to come across the red-fleshed and yellow-skinned ones.
- Dragon fruits are oval in shape and when cut open resemble a kiwi. They can weigh anywhere from 150-600gms (or 5.9 – 21 oz) but have also reached a weight of one kilo or 2.2 pounds. Unlike the vibrant outer colours, their scent and taste is very tame.
- There are two ways that I like to use to cut open the fruit and reveal the edible flesh inside. The first method you simple slice it in half (cutting the long length) and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. The second method you trim off a little of the top or the bottom of the fruit, then cut in half then simply peel away the pink skin away from the white flesh. The latter method will leave you with more edible flesh. You shouldn’t eat the pink/yellow skin as it is very sour and some believe that it will cause intestinal problems.
- Pitahayas are low in calories and a good source of Vitamins C, B1, B2, and B3, and a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, antioxidants and fibre. It is also an anti inflammatory fruit that is good for your cholesterol, heart, to regulate blood sugar (beneficial for diabetes and hypoglycaemia patients), gives you glowing skin and is said to help in weight management. Plus its high water content will help keep you hydrated.
- Dragon fruit is available year-round in most places. You can purchase it from Mexican, Latin or Asian food markets.
- When choosing a pitahaya choose one that is vibrant, smooth, doesn’t have too many blotches and isn’t too firm feeling. You should avoid ones that are too squishy and instead should choose one whose skin gives a little when pressed. Ones with brown leaves and stems should also be avoided.
- Typically dragon fruit is eaten chilled to improve it’s (mild) taste. It may be eaten alongside other mild fruits as a salad, blended into drinks, frozen into granites or sorbets, made into jellies as well as baked into desserts or used for decorating cakes too.
A Refreshing Lime-Pitahaya Summer Drink
- 2 medium pitahayas peeled and chopped
- 3 cups of cold filtered water adjust to taste
- 1 large lime adjust less or more depending on taste and how sweet or tart the pitahaya is
- brown sugar to taste I used about 4 tablespoons, adjust depending on how sweet pitahaya is
- ice cubes
- Blend the pitahayas, lime juice, half the water and some sugar. Add the remaining water and blend again. Taste and add more sugar or lime juice if desired. Strain into a pitcher with ice and serve or leave in the refrigerator until ready to serve. You may need to stir now and again as the pulp and water may separate.
This tropical drink has tones of limes and sweet hints of the pitahaya — the flavours compliment each other well. Perhaps next time I’ll use a mix of coconut water and see what happens. It may not be an explosion of flavours but it was a very satisfying and refreshing drink. On scorching summer days this is exactly the type of drink one needs. Enjoy!
Have a great Monday!