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Enter the Dragon…fruit

It’s the latest fruit craze. Dragon fruit, also known as ‘pitaya’, is the fruit of several different Hylocereus cactus species. The plant, native to Southern Mexico and Central America, is now grown all over the world.

If you have never seen a dragon fruit, it can be very easily identified. The two most common types have bright red skin, green scales, white pulp with black seeds. There is another variety known as yellow dragon fruit with yellow skin, white pulp, and black seeds. The taste of a dragon fruit can be described as a cross between a kiwi and a pear. It is both sweet and crunchy.

The health benefits of dragon fruit are vast. Dragon fruit is low in calories but packed with essential vitamins and minerals. It also contains a substantial amount of dietary fibre and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut leading to a healthy gastrointestinal tract.

It contains beneficial plant compounds such as polyphenols, carotenoids and betacyanins. Dragon fruit contains antioxidants that may help fight chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. Its high supply of Vitamin C and carotenoids may offer immune-boosting properties to strengthen your immune system.

Dragon fruit is also one of the few fresh fruits that contains iron. Iron plays a crucial role in transporting oxygen throughout the body. It also plays an important role in breaking down food into energy.

Dragon fruit is a great option, as one serving contains eight per cent of your recommended daily intake (RDI) and it also contains Vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron. Dragon fruit offers more magnesium than most fruits, with 18 per cent of your RDI in just one cup.

Eating a dragon fruit is very simple, do not feel intimidated by the leathery thick skin. Ensure you obtain a fruit that is ripe; an unripe dragon fruit will be green. Look for one that is bright red. Some spots are normal, but too many bruise-like splotches can indicate that it’s overripe.

Like avocado and kiwi, a ripe dragon fruit should be soft but not mushy. Using a sharp knife, cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the fruit with a spoon or cut it into cubes by cutting vertical and horizontal lines into the pulp without cutting into the peel.

Push on the back of the skin to expose the cubes and remove them with a spoon or your fingers. You can add these to salads, smoothies or you can consume as is.

At your gourmet shops or in the fruit aisle of your grocery store, dragon fruit currently retails for TT $50–90 per pound. It’s very expensive but worth a try.

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