Dragonfruit, Dragon Fruit, Is That A Pitaya In Your Pocket?

Pitaya

… or are you just glad to see me? I’m glad to have made the acquaintance of this tropical fruit, known also as a Strawberry Pear, Nanettikafruit, Thanh Long, as well as the more common names of Dragonfruit (or Dragon Fruit), and Pitaya. Apparently it comes in several varieties and can be grown in many tropical parts of the world, but the organic one I spied today (costing a double-take-inducing $12/pound!) at Madison Market had red skin and and stunning neon-magenta flesh dotted with small black seeds.

The flavor and texture immediately reminded me of a giant kiwi fruit, although they are apparently not relatives. The dragonfruit grows on a cactus, while kiwi is from a vine. Nonetheless, the slightly grainy, watery flesh and seeds were very reminiscent. The flavor is mildly sweet and tangy, not particularly intense.

While tasty enough to eat out of hand, at that price I don’t think many of us will be slicing pitaya up for an everyday breakfast. It would definitely be attention grabbing in a fruit salad or as a garnish. After puzzling about what I wanted to do with it, I landed on a quick sorbet that I served with a crepe filled with chocolate ganache. To make the the sorbet I just pureed the flesh with quite a bit of honey and a few grains of sea salt, and pushed it through a fine meshed sieve. You could put it in an ice cream maker, but I was in a hurry, so I poured it out on a baking sheet, set it level in the freezer, and agitated it with a fork every few minutes while I prepared the crepes, until it firmed up nicely. The sorbet developed a slightly gelatinous texture, which I liked but some (Snacky Pants, are you with me?) might find unappealing. That must be due to some chemical property of the fruit, but I don’t know the technical explanation. I think it would also make a great ice cream, though of course the color would become pastel. If I made it again I think I would use agave nectar instead of honey for the milder flavor and the nice symmetry of using two cactus-based ingredients. Shot of tequila anyone?

Pitayasorbet

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Friday, August 24th, 2007 in Desserts, Experiments.

5 Responses to “Dragonfruit, Dragon Fruit, Is That A Pitaya In Your Pocket?”

  1. Snacky Pants
    August 24, 2007 at 2:22 pm #

    I am not a big fan of gelatinous foods, but I did give this a try. The flavor of the dragon fruite was too mild and its texture made me expect some big juicy flavors. I would try it again, but certainly would not rush out to buy a dragon fruit. The chocolate crepes rocked though!!!

  2. Jasline
    August 24, 2007 at 6:30 pm #

    So this dragon fruit is so costly in US…here in SG, much cheaper even if is organic. 2 for SGD$3.50,or non-organic SGD$0.19/100g. It is very tasty.

    Enjoy!

    Cheer!

    Jas

  3. August 26, 2007 at 9:11 pm #

    Never tried dragon fruit, I can’t get any where I am.

    Do they really need to put those darned little stickers on every piece of fruit?

  4. Michael Natkin
    August 26, 2007 at 10:40 pm #

    Yeah, those stickers are annoying. Re the gelatinous texture of the sorbet, I emailed Harold McGee, author of On Food And Cooking which is pretty much a bible of technical food knowledge and a huge influence on all the molecular gastronomy we see these days, and he wrote back to say:

    On 8/26/07, Harold McGee wrote:

    Hi Michael, the fruit probably has carbohydrate gums like the kind found in okra and purslane and cactus paddles, and they’re not freed from the cells until you puree and break the cells open. That’s my guess. Best wishes, Harold

    That makes a lot of sense to me, the texture was actually very similar to the sliminess of okra. Thanks Harold!

  5. September 2, 2007 at 3:59 pm #

    I just ate one of these interesting fruits yesterday and served our guests a chilled half each to be eaten with a spoon. Those who demand strong flavors were not impressed, but the rest of us loved them. So simple, so refreshing. Will try the sorbet recipe above. If it is anything like the lime sorbet I have been making for years, a “sauce” of tequila that has been frozen in the bottle in the freezer which makes it a syrop, would be a nice touch.
    I don’t know about relative prices, but you can buy them grown in the US from http://www.calimoya.com for $30 US for 3 lbs of fruit (about 4-5 pieces) delivered to your door. Don’t know if that helps but hope so.

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