The dragon fruit plant originates in Central and South America. The plant was introduced to Vietnam by the French over one hundred years ago—bringing it over as an ornamental plant.
The plant is nicknamed “Queen of the Night”, “Moonflower” and “Lady of the Night” because the large flowers only bloom at night time.
The Vietnamese, like the Mexicans, realized that the plant had great tasting fruit and therefore began to cultivate it. In fact, now the fruit is grown in many Southeast Asian countries, like Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii, as a large-scale commercial crop.
DRAGON FRUIT PLANT DESCRIPTION
It may be hard to believe, but this plant is a member of the cactus family. Although it doesn’t look like your typical ornamental cactus, it does require dry areas to grow properly just like other cacti. It does best in soil with high levels of organic material. The plant’s ornate flowers are white and large, measuring about 14 inches long or more and have a sweet, pleasant fragrance when they bloom. Oddly enough, the flowers of the dragon fruit plant bloom only for one night, although the plants can have between 4 and 6 fruit cycles in a year.
The dragonfruit, just like its name implies, has an exotic, flamboyant appearance. It can be either bright pink, red, or yellow skinned with green spines. The fruit has an oval shape, and inside its flesh, it is usually white or red with black seeds dotted all over, an appearance similar to the seeds of a kiwi fruit. Dragon fruit can have a sweet taste or a slightly sour one depending on the type you’re eating. The numerous seeds in the flesh of the fruit add a crunchy texture to its already amazing flavor. Dragon fruit of the genus Stenocereus is called pitaya, while that of the genus Hylocereus is called pitahaya. Of all the types of dragon fruit, most people typically prefer that of the red fruit to eat raw because it tastes the sweetest.
HOW TO GROW DRAGON FRUIT
To grow dragon fruit, you can use seeds or stem cuttings – the latter being the easiest method. Since the plant is closely related to the orchid cacti or epiphyllu, the pitahaya (dragon fruit plant) can be cross pollinated with it. Seeds from the dragon fruit plant are best obtained when the fruit is unblemished and overripe. You then need to clean them thoroughly and store them once they are dry. The plant will germinate 10-14 days after planted if put in a shallow planter full of soil or compost mix. Since this plant is a cactus, overwatering is a concern you should look out for. The plant will need something to grab onto as it grows. It is usually planted as a climber to cover chain link fencing due to the heavy weight of its vine.
Once the plant reaches about ten pounds, it will produce a flower. Since the flowers only bloom at night, the plant has to be cross pollinated during this time by bats or moths. By morning, the flowers start to wither and die due to the rising heat, which is when the fruit begins to grow. Like other cacti, the dragon fruit plant will take root in soil if a healthy chunk of it is cut off the main plant and then planted. This plant can handle temperatures from short periods of frost to 104 degrees F – quite the range!
This plant is used ornamentally in people’s gardens, and parts of it are used to produce food color. Dragon fruit at its best is used in syrups, popsicles, pudding, ice cream, and fruit salads. Some people love to serve it raw and chilled, cutting it in half and eating the flesh with a spoon, or even as a dried fruit.
Because dragonfruit is one of those fiber rich fruits, it can be used to avoid bowel problems while improving your digestive system. Dragon fruit is also high in vitamin C, as well as vitamins B1, B2, and B3. These vitamins allow you to strengthen your skin and your immune system at the same time. A diet with regular intake of dragon fruit will not only provide you with more vitamins, but minerals too. This fruit contains calcium, phosphorous, and iron. That’s right, this tasty treat can make a world of difference for your bones and teeth.
The peoples of Asia believe that the fruit has great medicinal value. According to them, it can lower high blood pressure and blood glucose levels in Type 2 Diabetes. This could be due in part to dragon fruit’s antioxidant properties and lack of cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat, which all lead to stabilization of blood pressure. The seeds of the fruit lower the risk of heart disease because they contain omega (3 and 6) fatty acids. Dragon fruit is full of phytoalbumins, which are known to reduce cancer growth, as well as lycopene, which is currently being researched as a means of preventing prostate cancer. This fruit brings good benefits all around!
Additional Dragon Fruit Resources on Antioxidant Fruits.com: