A hot pink explosion with flamelike, neon green tips, the tropical dragon fruit is strikingly colorful and compelling. The fruit of the cactus plant pitaya is native to South Asia, Australia, and Central America. Its peak season is summer and early fall, but the fruit is now grown in Southern California and Florida, making it available year-round at Central Market, Whole Foods, and most Asian grocers.
Despite its showy exterior, the pulp is delicately sweet—reminiscent of a kiwi or a pear—and studded with tiny jet-black seeds that bring a surprising crunch when eaten. The flesh closely resembles a melon in texture and can be white, pink, or magenta, with magenta being the sweetest of all.
Beyond its flavorful qualities, the fruit is packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins C and B, and magnesium and is low in calories—approximately 60 for the whole fruit. Because of its nutrient-dense attributes, dragon fruit has become popular as frozen purees, dried fruit snacks, or bottled juices.
How to Select
To select a good ripe fruit, choose one with smooth skin and no brown spots. It should be firm with a little give when pressed with the thumb. Not quite ready? Leave it out on the counter for a day or two until it ripens further. If it is ripe but won’t be eaten right away, let it chill in the refrigerator. The riper, the sweeter.
To get to the goodness of this super fruit, cut it in half lengthwise and
peel the red, leathery skin away from the white pulp. Better yet, scoop out the flesh with a spoon and eat it on the spot. With its modest calorie count, it makes a great addition to smoothies, sorbets, ice cream, and most desserts. The white flesh can be cut into cubes and added to any fruit or leafy salads. Dragon fruit also pairs well with seafood, particularly in refreshing ceviches, making a perfect complement to your summer table.
Dragon Fruit and Shrimp Ceviche
- 1 lb. fresh small shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup lime juice
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
- 3 tbs. olive oil
- 1 dragon fruit, diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1 small avocado, diced into 1-inch cubes
- Sea salt
Note: Be sure to keep shrimp, lime juice, dragon fruit, and avocado cold until used.
Put the shrimp in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup lime juice, toss, and let soak for 15 minutes. It will cook on its own in the lime juice.
In a separate large mixing bowl, mix the other 1/2 cup lime juice, shallot, serrano pepper, cilantro, olive oil, and dragon fruit to incorporate evenly. Add the cooked shrimp to the large bowl and mix well. Gently fold in avocado. Salt to taste and serve with your favorite cracker and lime wedges, if desired.