Monday, November 26, 2012

Exotic Dragon Fruit


Hawaii has so many unusual fruits, fruits that don’t appear on the mainland in any regular supermarket. These fruits don’t even show up in normal Maui supermarkets. To find them, one has to trek to a local farmers market or to Mana Foods, which often has a selection of strange and unusual tropical fruit.  It’s an adventure for one’s sweet tooth and inner foodie.

Reddish and green tinged dragon fruit at a stall at the
Queen Ka'ahumanu Farmers Market.  
This is dragon fruit or pitaya. It looks like a dragon spawned it, with leafy “scales” or “spikes” like the ones on a dragon’s ridge. It’s not the same as dragon eye fruit, which resembles a dragon’s eyes. Someone with a lot of imagination named these fruits.

Dragon fruit is popular with people of Chinese or South Asian ancestry. I found this out after visiting a farmers market in Vancouver, Canada. I didn’t eat the fruit at the time, and tried to take it across the border. Turns out that dragon fruit is one of the few fruits not allowed to make the US-Canada border crossing, and my luscious looking fruit was confiscated.

Inside a dragon fruit, with its black seeds.

Dragon fruit is also a fruit I never knew about on Oahu, but learned after living on Maui. It’s also pricey, at $6/lb, with tender white flesh and small seeds. The taste is mildly sweet and watery. I haven’t become a huge fan of it, which means: 1) I’ve never eaten a really fantastic dragon fruit or 2) Dragon fruit is an acquired taste. I suspect it’s #1.  When a piece of fresh fruit isn’t incredibly good, then it hasn’t been grown in the right conditions. I know that now after eating some incredible dragon eye fruit.

The other intriguing things about dragon fruit is that it grows well on Maui (some farmers are growing it as a "cash crop"), it’s a cactus, and it’s related to one of my favorite flowers, the night blooming cereus which blooms along Maliko GulchHo'okipa, Pa'ia, and other spots on Maui. Like cereus, dragon fruit probably has exquisite flowers. I've seen dragon fruit growing in Haiku, Hali'imaile and in Kula. The Sacred Garden of Maliko has baby dragon fruit plants for sale from time to time.

This was going to be my original post for the "Take a Picture: Red" photo challenge hosted by MauiShopGirl, but I ended up sharing little red Hawaiian chili peppers instead. This is day #26 of National Blog Posting Month, aka nablopomo.

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