How Does Your Dragon Fruit Grow?

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: How Does Your Dragon Fruit Grow?

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Working a stone's throw away from Chinatown means that I walk by fresh fruit stands several times a day. This is the time of year when fresh dragon fruit becomes available. Also known as pitaya, it's the fruit of a cactus originally from the Americas, though these days it's widely grown and harvested in Southeast Asia. They're also one of my favorite fruits.

With crisp, watery white flesh dotted with crunchy black seeds, it's somewhere between a kiwifruit and a watermelon in texture, but with a much more subtle flavor than either. Faintly sweet, with a floral aroma, they're very refreshing and one of the best ways to finish a meal or cleanse your palate between bites of rich foods. (Dragon fruit and pork belly is a great combo.)

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In my wife's native Colombia, they come in a thicker, yellow-skinned variety (see a picture of that in our tropical fruit guide here) with a slightly more robust flavor and a softer, pudgier exterior.

In the U.S., you're far more likely to see the hot-pink-with-green-flames version, and if you shop in the right place, you may even be lucky enough to find the Costa Rican variety, which boasts deep maroon flesh and a more syrupy flavor. Just don't eat too many of them lest you want your trips to the restroom to be much more... colorful experiences.

When my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Vietnam, we passed by acres and acres of pitaya farms. As it turns out, the plants on which these amazing fruits grow happen to look nearly as cool as the fruits themselves. Check out the slideshow to see how it works.

Anyone else out there a fan of the dragon fruit? What are your favorite ways to eat them?

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