DRAGON FRUIT: A HIDDEN GEM, often time taken for granted by the local Vietnamese
Though considered by the local Vietnamese as “nothing out of the ordinary” among all the other exotic fruits in Southeast Asia, the Dragon Fruit (or Pitaya) gets quickly noticed by people who aren’t familiar with it, for its unusual shape and combination of colors.
Personally, I find beautiful and fascinating, this pink-magenta* “rosebud” which looks a little like a soft pineapple with soft green spikes. (* apparently it comes in yellow too, but have not yet seen it!)
Once cut into it, you will be surprised to find a “kiwi-like” resemblance of black seeds on a white pulpy or purple flesh (the purple being said to be sweeter). The flavor is mildly sweet and the texture crunchy and quite refreshing when served cold.
At about 25,000 VND/kilogram or approximately $0.50 per pound, I’ve been told by the local people that there is nothing special about this fruit to take notice on. (I wonder what they would think about its sometimes high price of up to $9/lb in places such as California!).
Yet after having been told originally by my mother that it is full of Vitamin C, further research found that this fruit should definitely not be taken granted as it is actually considered a “Superfood” because of health benefits such as:
- Immune booster: Full of Vitamin C, B1, 2, 3 and other antioxidants (or phytonutrients that fight free radicals) to strengthen your immune system
- Diabetes management: high in fiber which regulates blood sugar levels
- Cholesterol-lowering food: the Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from black seeds help with cholesterol levels
- Cardiovascular health: the same Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids also aid in improving the overall heart health
- Blood pressure regulator: in “cleansing” the inside of your body, it maintains healthy tissues inside and around the heart which helps with blood pressure.
- Cancer prevention : Aside from being high in vitamins (Vitamin C) & in antioxidants, it contains carotene, a known anti-carcinogenic, to help decrease the size of tumors, and also lycopene known to lower risks for prostate, breast, lung, liver and skin cancer.
- Healthy Bones and Teeth: its rich natural source of phosphorus and calcium maintains healthy bones and teeth
- Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal: the high amount of anti-fungal and antibacterial properties helps increase the white blood cell count in the body which eventually protects the body from toxins and infections.
- Weight loss management: its high content in fiber yet low in calorie content, with increased metabolic rate due its protein content and with controlled cholesterol level, help with weight loss
- Healthy skin: Aside from having antioxidants eliminate free radicals which damage the skin, this fruit has also an important mineral phosphorus which is crucial for maintaining healthy skin cells (and youthful look).
- Better eye sight: the presence of Vitamin A in the form of carotene improves vision
So I was happy to learn that in trying to get a natural intake of Vitamin C, I was at the same time getting many more other benefits from this very affordable fruit in Vietnam.
How to pick and cut this fruit?
- How to choose it? I was told to look for the one whose scales or spikes look a little bit dried off, not necessarily for the one that was the most beautiful in color. For me, that has worked to be the sweeter type.
- How to cut? Despise its look, it is rather a simple fruit to cut & enjoy, with very little labor in cutting (vs a pineapple, jackfruit, watermelon, etc). Some suggest it to cut in half and use a spoon to scoop it out. For me, I would simply cut off a bit on the top and start peeling it like a banana. Then cutting in half and into smaller slides.