Saturday, July 25, 2009

EAT , not slay the Dragon !

I first came upon this fruit growing in Ho Chi Minh in 2003 on a holiday. We sailed on the Mekong and one of our stops was a village. We stepped on solid ground and were shown around. The villager showed us the longan. Oh, how I love the luscious, juicy fruit! Then he pointed to the dragon fuit. At first glance, it looked weird and so unwieldy ! A cactus sprouting red, globular -like fruits. Around the village the dragon fruit made a conspicuous presence, dangling in rows on ropes and hanging wherever possible.

Back home, the fruit is no more a novelty item as Malaysia is also an important grower. I found out it was introduced into this country since 1997. But Vietnam tops the world in cutivating this fruit, at 10,000 hectacres.

By and large, the plant requires a tropical climate. It's quite a common sight to see dragon fruits grown on a large scale in open areas.

The dragon fruit shown here are grown by some students from the Economic Empowerment Programme (EEP) of Selangor Cheshire Home. 1000 plants are on this plot of land. Besides having classes for IT skills, they learn how to look after the plants. The acquired skills will be useful when they are ready for employment after their tenure is over.

I was lucky to snap some pics of the fruit in different stages of growth. Known also as pitaya, the dragon fruit is named for its colourful red scales tipped with green like those of the mythical dragon. There are 3 species :

1. Hylocereus undatus - with white flesh
2. H. polyrhizus - with red flesh
3. Selenicereus megalanthus - with yellow flesh and yellow skin.
The red flesh of H. polyrhizus contains anthocyanin, an oxidant which promotes good health.

In fact, I tried to grow the dragon fruit in my garden from a cutting. I found a sunny spot and used the pole of clothes line to act as the support. Alas, I didn't try hard enough. It was a malnourished, skinny plant. Nothing much happened.

The dragon fruit is a climbing cacti with aerial roots. It therefore needs pillars for support. Cuttings are buried 2 feet deep, leaving about 4 feet above the ground. A special wire, wood or concrete bracket is made at the top of the pillar or a motorbike tyre can be used.

Dragon fruit requires 100% sunlght and the fruits can be covered with netted bags to protect them from fruit flies and mites.

Dragon fruit is a day long plant and it's large showy flowers bloom only at night. They can be more than 30cm long! It takes 35 - 45 days from flowering to fruit harvest.

The fruits are ready for harvest when 60% of the scales on the fruit turn red. The fruit are graded by weight:
Grade AA for fruit 500 -800 g each
Grade A - 350 -450 g
Grade B - 250 - 350 g
Grade C - less than 250 g. Use them for making cordials, syrup and jam

I have only eaten it as a fruit - scooped out of its skin or as a fruit salad. I enjoy the 'nutty' taste of the seeds which are much like the those of the kiwi fruit.The fruit is known for its high vitamin C content, minerals and high fiber.

You might like to try it as a smoothie with lime or lemon to taste. The flowers can be dried for making a tea, or cooked as a vegetable. After removing the spines, new stem shoots can be cut diagonally and fried as a vegetable or used to make soup.

Enjoy! Be in the pink of health!


  1. I am supposed to go to Vietnam but cancelled it because of H1N1...sigh. I saw many dragon fruits growing in Desaru when I visited a farm there. Your photo of the fruit looked so lovely and yummy.

  2. The flower is extremely beautiful. Now I know why my friend is growing and focusing on this wierd looking plant in her garden. Do you mean that the bloom lasts only 1 night? Is it very fragrant? This plant reminds me of the flower called 'keng fah', which also blooms at night and for a few hours only.

  3. i had try growing this plant at my house but not very succesful.honestly i don't like the taste of the fruit , but the plant itself it quite unique

  4. I never seen these dragon fruits :)
    Its new for me.
    Great shots !!

  5. Wow that top fruit is as beautiful as a flower
    We have a cactus in the garden with a simular white flower. The cactus is different though
    Thicker and more prickly Very interesting

  6. I should have read your post first before I went to the Asian grocery store. They sell this fruit today and they are beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn't buy them. Maybe I should go there again tomorrow to get this fruits. Very nice pictures. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Hi!
    I want to go to Vietnam.
    Dragon fruits...
    beautiful flower!
    And maybe very tasty!

    Thank you for your nice pictures!

    Have a nice day!

    thank you for your comment of my blog!

  8. We have two dragon fruit plants in our yard and yes the bloom is so beautiful but just for one day. The ones in our yard bear deep purple flesh fruit and really sweet. However, they have stopped fruiting now. Could be they are tired of each other.

  9. Hi
    alicesg, you must have seen lots and lots of dragon fruits as johore is a big grower .

    Autumn belle, the flower lasts for 1 day. I don't think it has fragrance like the 'keng fah'. I sniffed it and didn't detect any.

    xplorer, some people I know aren't thrilled about the taste. Got to get the better grade and I'm sure the taste will be different :)

    Anya, the fruit is certainly unique.

    marja, thanks for certainly has a lovely flower.

    Zue Murphy, hope the fruit doesn't disappoint you!

    marukatsu,you'll have plenty of dragon fruit to eat when you're in Vietnam. We ate it every day!

    Ocean Girl, lucky you to harvest dragon fruit from your garden. I guess, when they fruit next, you'll be rewarded again! Any fruiting fertiliser to encourage them??

  10. I've always called it 'pig fruit' because it looks like a bright pink spiny pig with a snouty snout... know what I mean? :oD

    I had some last week. It's an acquired taste. Some people find it too cactus-y. "Like eating aloe vera with sesame seeds", a friend described.

    I love your posts, there's so much good stuff to read. Your readers actually get to learn about Malaysian natural history and much else besides.

  11. I've never seen anything like this in my life.
    Very interesting.

  12. I've never seen this. It's beautiful! I love the last picture of the inside.

  13. Hi
    ~Covert_Operations'78~, I see what you mean - a nice rounded , snouty, pinky pig. Well, that's what the eyes see !
    Thanks so much for your generous compliments. I'm glad you enjoy my posts. Truth be told, this is some 'serious' writing since school days aeons ago,so really I have to hone my skills :)

    The Retired One, thank you.

    adrienne, the last picture is an image sourced from the web. All other pictures were taken by me and I was very lucky to get so many different stages of growth.

  14. i wud have never recognised it as a fruit..great pics showing the different stages.

  15. Hi
    Rush, when you have the opportunity, purhase one or two and enjoy it. It's a unique fruit alright!

  16. Incredible! I've eaten the dragon-fruits before, love them, but they are very expensive here in the US..

    I love your photos of the growing stages, and the flowers are fantastic..You're in my blog list!

  17. Sunshinegirl
    What a fabulous and gorgeous looking fruit. Never seen this before.Thanks for the sharing. The pics are really beautiful.Ram

  18. Thanks for giving a close up on these sweet dragons. We have been seeing these on the many journeys, but the closest is through the car window.....

    Have a great day
    ~ bangchik

  19. Hi
    Icy BC, yes, i was really lucky to snap these pics of the dragon fruit.
    Welcome to my blog!

    R.Ramakrishnan, thank you.

    Bangchik and Kakdah, glad you're seeing them up close! I enjoy your posts. So green and informative too.

  20. Oh wow. How cool that plant is! The fruit is beautiful.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope we'll get better acquainted.

  21. The flower is beautiful! I still haven't acquired a taste for the fruit though.

  22. Hi
    Paula, welcome to my blog! Yes, let's get to know each other better:)

    Veronica Lee, have you tried the yellow variety? I haven't.

  23. i like the red flesh :D
    it tastes better than the rest.

    don't you think so?

  24. I think I also ate this fruit for the first time in Vietnam. It was so different and so exotic for me. remember taking couple pictures of it..

  25. Hi
    Faisal Admar, i've tasted the white and the red but not the yellow fruit. The red is better.

    Turquoise Diaries, welcome to my blog! when we were on holiday in Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei and Bali, it was a popular fruit dessert.

  26. Looks so yummmmmmmmmmyyyyyy!!!
    I really love dragon fruit, remember eating them almost everyday in Siem Reap (I wonder if they grow them there!)
    Taste wise, I prefer the one with white flesh .... less messy when cutting them up!

  27. Lupie, thanks for visiting. I'm pretty sure Cambodia grows dragon fruit too. Have you tried growing one for your regular supply??


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