Taste the Exotics: Florida Dragon Fruit
I’ll never forget my first encounter with pitahayas or dragon fruits. I was touring the Mekong River Delta in a canoe in Vietnam wearing my Vietnamese hat and enjoying the beauty of the surroundings with my friends. We made a stop in the village at a shack style restaurant where they served us local drinks and this weird looking white fruit with lots of black seeds. I skeptically bit into it and it sure was refreshing.
Many years later, for my surprise, I discovered that they’re grown in Florida! These beautiful Hylocerus cacti are available in Florida from June through November. Their white, yellow, red or pink magenta flesh has a mild flavor and kiwi like texture.
Dragon fruits’ fragrant flowers and colorful scale rinds bring an exotic flair as dinner party decorations. It’s also fun to share the mythical legends of its origins with guests. Tropical fruit salads, juices and sorbets are the most common recipes prepared with dragon fruits.
Our FAPC member Red Dragon Fruit Company considers that while adapting to a more modern and enlightened palette incorporating exotic ‘old world’ fruits previously absent from the mainstay diet of the western world, the Red Dragon Fruit Company has maintained the philosophy of wholesome down-to-earth gardening. Striving for a minimal-use approach to pesticides and chemicals, much of the produce grown and harvested by the Red Dragon Fruit Company is raised pesticide-free, according to their website.
Owner Roger Washington encountered dragon fruit/pitahaya about 20 years ago while on a surf trip through Central America. They were red-fleshed varieties and were not very attractive fruit and very hard to get to, as they grew up into the top of the canopy of the forest. The animals would get to the majority of them. He met a missionary back in Miami around 1998 that had collected a white fleshed variety while on a mission in Vietnam back in the 70’s. Roger was immediately drawn to this particular variety and began researching this fruit in more detail and started growing them at his farm in Redland, FL. “Since then I have meet other enthusiasts of this wonderful fruit and have collected several other varieties and am working on new varieties” says Roger.
You can find Red Dragon Fruit Company fruits at Whole Foods Market, Norman Brothers Produce, Kastners Market, Carmines Gourmet Market, and Fresh Point Food Distributors. Hotels and restaurants like Mandarin Oriental, Trump International, Nobu, North 110 serve dishes with dragon fruits. Look for their logo so that you know you are getting authentic Red Dragon Fruit Company fruit.
Roger’s favorite ways of eating dragon fruits are:
- White fleshed – fresh, slightly chilled with a garnish of fresh mint.
- Red fleshed – fresh, slightly chilled or made into a juice with lime, passion fruit, agave nectar & water.
“The chefs that we supply to have come up with some very interesting recipes that are unbelievable,” says Roger.
For more information about Florida exotic tropical fruits, visit our webpage at: www.florida-agriculture.com/tropical/index.htm
photo source: www.flickr.com