There’s a strange new animal stalking the aisles of the produce section of our grocery store these days. It’s beautiful and a little dangerous looking… with long, scales tipped in green overlying a glossy, red, leathery skin. It’s almost as if it’s breathing flames at you… or getting ready to stab you with poison darts!
Of course it’s not an animal at all. It’s a delicious but sinisterly attractive food called the Dragon Fruit. I say ‘sinister’ because you do have to be a little careful. First of all, look them over closely in the store. Choose one with green tips (not brown and withered). And eat it only once the flesh gives slightly when pressed. You don’t want one that is too mushy or too firm. Like most fruits (and porridge), it tastes best when it is ‘just right.’
Let it soak for a few minutes in fresh water, like you would any fruit. After all, it came to you from a long distance. You never know how a food is treated on its journey. This is not one of those foods that has been grown just down the road, after all… that is, unless (unlike me sitting here in chilly old Ottawa, Canada) you live in Mexico and places further south, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Hawaii, Israel, Palestine, Australia (north), or China (south)… . What all these exotic places have in common is heat. And heat is just what the dragon-fruit-bearing Hylocereus cactuses love.
It seems there are several species of this cactus, with variations on the color of the skin and the fruit they bear. But the one we’ve seen popping up in Canada has red skin and a creamy fruit studded with tiny black seeds, rather like a kiwi.
Eating this fruit is a piece of cake. Just take a sharp knife and slice it lengthwise. It cuts like butter. Then take a large spoon with a sharp edge (if you have one like that) and try to scoop out the soft flesh in one large piece.
Trim off any hint of the red skin from the flesh and throw it away. I’ve seen some references that say the skin is a good source of fiber. But I’ve seen others that say it can contain toxins! If anyone has an authoritative source on this matter, I’d love to know about it.
I like to cube the edible flesh and pile it back into the bowl made from taking the flesh out of the dragon fruit in the first place. The flesh tastes delicious.. sweet, mild, soft like a kiwi but not as tart, and gently perfumed. There is nothing unusual about it that you would have to get used to. In fact, you might want to serve it with a yogurt dip to zap it up a notch.
Of course, I wouldn’t be mentioning the dragon fruit if it wasn’t good for you. Dragon fruit is low in calories and is a good source of vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, plus fiber and antioxidants. It’s said to be good for lowering cholesterol and in the management of diabetes. So there. The next time you spot dragon fruit in the fresh foods section of the supermarket, don’t pass it by. See if you can slay a couple of them! Then serve them to Firefox and any other of your friends (or your friends’ pets). They’re also good in a fruit salad. Stay tuned for a recipe another day. And so, here ends another adventure in good food, brought to you by your pal, Vinny Grette.