Dragon Fruit

I like to try new and interesting foods. So does Fia. That means our pantry is filled to bursting, and our fridge and freezer are piled to the top with meals both planned and half-consumed, as well as whatever odds and ends we encounter at the store. And we go grocery shopping a lot. Sometimes, just for essentials. Other times, we come back with bags of randomness bought on discount. The other day, we were at Hannaford picking up some decidedly non-food essentials (toilet paper and plastic bags), and we passed a display of dragon fruit (properly known as pitaya). One look at this fruit is all you need to know. Of course we bought one. And, well, I’m going to review it – because that’s kind of my thing.

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Price: Our dragon fruit cost $5. That makes it the single most expensive piece of fruit we saw in the produce department (watermelon would have been more if it were in season). I usually avoid the expensive-but-interesting fruits (passion fruit, “uniq” fruit, pummelo, horned melon) because there’s such a high cost to taste them, and I have no idea if the fruit I get will be tasty or ripe (especially in Maine, where a lot of our out-of-season produce is hard as a rock). So, I would definitely categorize this as a pricey indulgence. I wouldn’t go picking up a case of them, or buying them every week. This is a “special occasion” fruit.

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Taste: Dragon fruit’s flesh is pulpy, soft, and filled with a multitude of tiny black seeds. The seeds are nearly as soft as the flesh – unless you bite directly down on one, you’ll hardly notice their presence. The taste is very mild – slightly tart nearer to the outer skin, sweeter at the middle of the fruit. I was reminded of the soft texture of an incredibly ripe cantaloupe paired with the firm granularity of a watermelon rind. Occasionally, I would catch a hint of something vaguely savory or meaty as I ate (nearly garlic-like) – but it was very difficult to pin down. This fruit works very well when salted (similar to watermelon). Overall, it’s quite bland and watery, but the interesting texture and experience of eating such an odd fruit make up for it in a way.

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Presentation: Take another look at the photo we took. Right off the bat, this is one of the most visually striking foods I’ve ever seen. The outside is bright pink with trailing green “leaves” that extend from the peel. The inside looks like static on an old television set: black and white specks everywhere. It’s beautiful. I almost felt bad about eating it.

Would I buy it again? Probably not – but perhaps if we were going to make an interesting dish with it. The trouble with dragon fruit is that it’s so mild – I’m not sure what you can do with it without completely overwhelming the flavor (unless you’re only including it for visual interest). Bottom line: it’s an expensive fruit that, while fun to try, isn’t nearly as interesting to eat.

Rating: 2.5/5 Forks

Fia’s Note: We prepared our dragonfruit by scooping out the flesh, scraping off any bits of skin that clung to it, dicing it up, and putting it back into the halved outer shell to eat, but there are other ways to try it, so be adventurous — just don’t eat the skin. In hindsight, this probably would have been better if we had refrigerated it overnight, because I hear it’s better chilled. Unfortunately, I have to agree with Ian on this one — while visually striking, it just wasn’t flavorful enough to warrant another purchase, unless it was integral to a recipe I was making.