A pitaya is the fruit of several cactus species, most importantly of the genus Hylocereus (sweet pitayas). These fruit are commonly known as dragon fruit, fire dragon fruit, dragon pearl fruit, thanh long (green dragon), strawberry pear or nanettikafruit.
Native to Mexico and Central and South America, the vine-like epiphytic Hylocereus cacti are also cultivated in Asian countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. They are also found in Okinawa, Hawaii, Israel, northern Australia and southern China. Hylocereus blooms only at night; the large white fragrant flowers of the typical cactus flower shape are among those called "moonflower" or "Queen of the Night". Sweet pitayas have a creamy pulp and a delicate aroma.
The fruit can weigh from 150 to 600 grams; some may reach one kilogram. To prepare a pitaya for consumption, the fruit is cut open to expose the flesh. The fruit's texture is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit due to the presence of black, crunchy seeds. The flesh, which is eaten raw, is mildly sweet and low in calories. The seeds are eaten together with the flesh, have a nutty taste and are rich in lipids, but they are indigestible unless chewed. The fruit is also converted into juice or wine, or used to flavour other beverages. The flowers can be eaten or steeped as tea. The skin is not eaten, and in farm-grown fruit it may be polluted with pesticides.
Ingestion of significant amounts of red-fleshed dragon fruit (such as Costa Rica Pitaya) may result in pseudohematuria, a harmless reddish discolouration of the urine and faeces.
Where to buy Dragon Fruit
In the UK if you can't find dragon fruit in a large supermarket, try an Asian wholesaler or specialist Asian supermarket.