Weird Ingredient Wednesday: How to Train Your Dragonfruit

How to Train Your Dragonfruit

Even the most unadventurous eaters can usually be coaxed to take a bite of an exotic fruit (except, perhaps, the notoriously stinky durian). After all, fruit is sweet, juicy, and filled with natural sugars.

So dragonfruit might be just the gateway food you need to turn picky eaters into adventurous ones, especially once they get a look at its flamboyant exterior (you can see why it got an equally dramatic name from the pink-and-green scales):

Image by Danny Rangel/Flickr

Not to mention its equally lovely interior, which can be white or magenta:

Image by whologwhy/Flickr

Like tequila, dragonfruit (Hylocereus undatus) comes from the cactus plant. It's also known as pitahaya or strawberry-pear. It's grown in many warm climates, including Southeast Asia, Mexico, Latin America, and Israel. Buddhists in Thailand and Vietnam often bring the fruit as an offering to temples.

Taste-wise, dragonfruit is delicate, sweet, and light. Some liken it to a cross between a honeydew and a kiwi, while others say it's more of a cross between a kiwi and a pear.

Dragonfruit is not as formidable as its name. To pick a good, ripe dragonfruit, look for ones that are evenly and brightly colored. A brittle, too-brown stem or brown tips on the "leaves" are signs that the fruit should be passed by. It should have a little give when ripe, like a good avocado. If it's rock-hard, leave it out on your counter to ripen. They're typically available in the summer and early fall. Check your Latino and Asian groceries to get a really good deal on 'em.

Prepping dragonfruit is easy as can be. You can peel off the leathery skin and eat the sweet flesh, or cut it up into slices beforehand and then peel. You can get a full walkthrough from the video below:

Dragonfruit is rumored to be extremely high in vitamins B and C and is touted in various places as a superfood (whatever that means).

Dragonfruit work great in fresh, raw dishes, like salads or salsas. Their dramatic appearance lets them shine in desserts, like these dragonfruit jellies from 52 Kitchen Adventures:

Image via 52 Kitchen Adventures

Or this coconut and dragonfruit sherbert from Mike's Table:

Image via Mike's Table

But honestly, my favorite recipe is no recipe at all from Cooking on the Weekends. Just use a melon baller and the rind of the dragonfruit to hold the results and you have one stunning, healthy, and tasty dessert:

Image via Cooking on the Weekends

Get More Weird Ingredient Wednesdays

Mother Nature is ceaselessly creative when it comes to strange things we can eat. Bite into Szechuan buttons and you'll get a literal shock. Huitlacoche, aka corn smut, is a disesase that you'll actually want to eat. And caul fat might just give bacon a run for its money when it comes to flavor.

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