History of Dragon Fruit
If dragon fruit sounds exotic, that’s because it is. Originating in Southeast Asia, it’s actually part of the cactus family, which makes sense given its spiky outer layer. Dragon fruit comes from a plant that looks like a climbing vine, growing best in dry areas.
Being an epiphyte, the dragon fruit thrives around good organic soil. It yields large and ornate white flowers that produce a sweet fragrance when in bloom, but you might miss that special effect since the flowers bloom for only one night, pollinated by bats and moths — however, the plant may have up to six fruit-producing cycles annually.
This fruit can be rather intimidating upon first glance, but it peels quite easily. It’s usually oval, elliptical or pear-shaped and contains a sweet, sometimes sour taste. The inside is typically white or red with little seeds that look a lot like sesame seeds with a similar crunch as the seeds found in a kiwi. (12)
Today, distribution mainly comes from South Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Taiwan and Malaysia, but the fruit is native to Central America. It’s known as Pitahaya in Mexico and as Pitaya roja in Central America and northern South America. Pitahaya is the Spanish name for fruiting vines of Central America.
The dragon fruit may have first been introduced over a century ago when the French brought it to Vietnam. Native to Central America, Aztec literature claims that the fruit dates back to the 13th century. However, it’s thought to have been taken to Nicaragua and Colombia, while some suggest it came from Guyana, South America, in 1870 as an ornamental plant due to its large flowers. The fact that these large flowers only bloom at night gives way to nicknames “moonflower” or “lady of the night.” Its genus name,Hylocerus, comes from cerus or the Latin word cera, meaning “wax” or “torch-like.”
It wasn’t long before the Vietnamese realized just how delicious the fruit is, which encouraged cultivation. Now considered indigenous, especially the white flesh variety,Hylocereus undatus, also called blue dragon or thanh long by the Vietnamese, the fruit was eventually grown in Vietnam commercially, resulting in a profit-producing crop. It was introduced as recently as 1999 in the Sitiawan, Johor and Kuala Pilah regions, with Colombia and Nicaragua growing it for commercial use, making it clear that the dragon fruit prefers to grow in warmer climates. It’s now exported throughout Southeast Asia and becoming even more popular in places like Thailand, New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. It’s known for use in flavorings for juices, wines, medicinally, and simply eaten fresh or dried.
There are no known risks of dragon fruit — however, if you have any side effects, stop eating it immediately.
Dragon Fruit Recipes
Dragon fruit can be found fresh or dried at many grocery stores. Just make sure to buy organic when possible.
In order to get all these wonderful dragon fruit benefits, try the following dragon fruit recipes, beginning with the following.
Dragon Fruit and Coconut Power Smoothie
- 1 dragon fruit (scoop out the insides)
- 1 small banana
- ½ cup blueberries
- 1 teaspoon unrefined coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground flaxseeds
- Large handful pumpkin seeds
- 1 scoop vanilla bone broth
- 1.75 cups of water
- Using a blender, combine the dragon fruit, banana, blueberries and water, and blend well.
- Then add the coconut oil, chia seeds, bone broth and flaxseeeds, and blend again until smooth. You can add a couple of cubes of ice if you prefer it chilled or use frozen bananas for a thicker smoothie.
- Top with pumpkin seeds and serve.
Final Thoughts on Dragon Fruit
- Dragon fruit may sound strange, but it’s a real fruit with real benefits that can make a great addition to any smoothie, salsa or salad, in addition to eating on its own.
- Dragon fruit benefits include boosting the immune system, aiding digestion, treating and preventing diabetes, improving heart health, anti-aging, and even potential cancer prevention.
- If you’re looking for a low-fat, low-calorie superfood to add to your diet, dragon fruit may be just the thing.