Market Matters- Limes Are From Venus, Dragon Fruit Are From Mars

Bacardi has a new(ish) product on the market. They call it Bacardi Dragon Berry. It is rum with the flavorings of strawberry and dragon fruit. I do not usually go in for “flavored” spirits unless I do the flavoring myself. So when I saw it in the market, I noted it, but passed on the purchase.

But I have to admit part of my reason for passing was I had never tasted dragon fruit. Though I do recall reading about it a few years ago when I was researching tropical fruit trees. We were considering the purchase of some property in Fiji. I had (have) a fantasy about packing up my big city life and living in an orchard filled with unusual fruit trees somewhere off the grid and in the middle of paradise. Who doesn’t, right? There still time though. I am still a young(ish) man, right?

Anyway, in my research I came across an article written by David Karp. He is known as the fruit detective here in So. Cal (and beyond). I have quoted him in these pages before. David is sort of credited with bringing the dragon fruit into the consciousness of Southern Californians. His influence on this fruit’s popularity may have even brought it to a Farmers Market near you.

bacardi dragon berryMine certainly has it. So this week’s Market Matters from the Hollywood Farmers Market is devoted to the dragon fruit.

Unusual fruits have been introduced to the masses many times before. Many of these fruits have permanently captured our imaginations, and of course, the loyalty of our taste buds. As David says in his LA Times article from 2002: “The mango did it. The Meyer lemon did it.” There have been other newer taste sensations. Take ­Acai. Sup! would argue Acai overdid it.

If you have never seen a dragon fruit (which are more widely known outside America as pitahayas) let me allow David to describe them to you. He has such a way with words, “the dragon fruit is an outlandishly flaming pink, spineless cactus fruit that looks like an artichoke from Mars.”

Now you see why I had to let him describe it. I have never been to Mars, so I have no idea what their artichokes look like.

But now that I have tasted one here on Earth, I will attempt to describe the experience to you in my own words. Which is not too hard. Because dragon fruit are primarily sweet. Sweet like ripe dragon fruit salad in halfpapaya is a good comparison. But kiwi comes to mind almost immediately, as do baked pears and watermelon. Like a watermelon it is has a tooth, yet with the dichotomy of a certain succulent softness.

Good dragon fruit has a nice amount of acidity. But as they ripen they lose that acidity and become slightly rubbery. I have that information on the best authority (yep David Karp!).

Like a kiwi, it’s loaded with tiny seeds. There is a virtual constellation inside every fruit. But I suppose its time spent on Mars, in such close proximity to the Milky Way, is the cause for this. But, don’t worry. The seeds are not a bother and do not take anything away in the texture department.

Bringing new produce to market is a huge undertaking, and the politics of agriculture is an interesting subject. The push and pull between supply and demand. As well as the secrecy involved can make the process risky. David’s article is very thorough regarding these difficulties. He is an expert regarding the fruit industry in California and I suggest you read the entire Los Angeles Times article here. 

To me it is especially interesting because many of the points he discussed in 2002 seem to have been worked out in the dragon fruit’s favor. Because it is beginning to get a foothold into our foodie psyche. So much so that Bacardi is rolling it out in its rum.

dragon fruit salad from SippitySupWhile a cocktail sounds nice, the most common way to eat a dragon fruit is raw. I am doing mine as a light salad. Let’s call it Dragon Fruit Salad with Ginger & Mint shall we?

Simply cut it in have lengthwise, and then treat it as you would an avocado. Which to me means pre-slicing the flesh into a grid pattern then using a spoon to scoop out the chunks.

I tossed mine with some minced ginger and mint. And, to balance all that sweetness, I gave it a big squeeze of lime juice. I tossed it all together, and then put the chunks back inside the lovely Martian inspired bowls. Though the skins are not edible, the hollowed out vessels are perfect for serving these as individual salads. At least that’s how they do it on Mars, or so I have heard!

Find recipe for Dragon Fruit Salad here


Greg Henry