Sunday, August 2, 2009

Off The Beaten Path - Dragon Fruit

I've always been adventurous when it comes to food. In my meat-eating days, my favourite place to go was Louisiana, USA because if there was something that lived, you could eat it there - most often deep-fried.

Being Vegan has opened up an amazingly large new world of food that I never even would have noticed before. I often get the same line from friends, family and total strangers: don't you get sick of eating the same thing everyday? What!?!? Well, you have only two choices, a salad or a stir-fry...

Let's see... pork, beef and chicken. There's three choices. Oh right, you cut them different ways and it's a whole different dead flesh experience. There are thousands of different types of fruits and vegetables in this world - there are 7500 variations of the tomato alone!

When I visited Chinatown in Toronto for the first time since changing my lifestyle, I was overwhelmed, as you can imagine. The markets along Spadina and into Kensington are full of fruits, vegetables, roots and herbs that I'd never heard of before in my life. Funny thing is, I'd walked by them many, many times before and didn't give them a second glance. I was probably more interested in the animal carcasses hanging inside the front windows.

One fruit that really caught my eye was Dragon Fruit. It is commonly know throughout the world as Pitaya or Pitahaya. I didn't buy any that day because we had come down on the subway and I didn't feel like carrying groceries around for the rest of the day. However, I asked the folks at my favourite Thai/Vietnamese restaurant, 7 Stars, in town and they were more than happy to pick one up on their next shopping run. Of course, they thought I was crazy. In Vietnam, where they come from, Dragon Fruit is just a cactus that grows wild and no one eats the fruit despite its abundance.

I took it anyway. I ate it and it was great! The taste is sweet but not to any extreme - some would even say it was close to bland. The fruit is white fleshed with a texture that I would say is a mix between watermelon and kiwi fruit. It is very high in water content like the watermelon and would be a great 'hydrater' on a hot summer day. It also would be a great addition to a fruit salad, mixed in with watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, etc.

Here are some fast facts about Dragon Fruit or Pitahaya:
  • Grows in dry, tropical or sub-tropical locations
  • Red flesh variety from Costa Rica can cause pseudohematuria - colours urine in the same way that beets do! Always a great trick to pull on unsuspecting guests...
  • Native to Central America but grown throughout southeast Asia, Mexico, South American and Northern Australia and pretty much anywhere tropical
  • Called 'thanh long' in Vietnam - translates to Dragon Fruit. The cactus will grow up the side of tree and make the shape of a dragon
  • Latin name is Hylocereus undatus
  • Flower is 35 cm long and 25 cm in diameter (30 cm = 1 foot)
  • Flower blooms at night and lasts only one night - sometimes called a moon flower
  • Contains laxative properties! Careful how much you eat at your rain forest resort!

The fruit is highly nutritious and is a substantial source of Vitamin C. It is also a great way to control type 2 diabetes. For more information, check out this site.

No comments:

Post a Comment