Now that it’s summertime in the Midwest, friends and family will escape – or at least try to ignore – the heat by gathering for picnics, backyard cookouts and easy brunches. I usually contribute a baked dessert, but if it’s just too hot to use the oven, a big bowl of raw fruit or a cold fruit salad is simplest and just as welcomed.
One of my favorite fruits to include in these toss-it-all-togethers is the Dragon Fruit, or pitaya. No, it is not the fruit of a fire breathing beast, but of the cactus – Hylocereus undatus, to be exact. This tropical fruit is delicately fragrant and absolutely delicious. The bright pink, reddish, and sometimes salmon colored exterior is embellished with bright yellow spikes all around. The first time I bought one of the egg-shaped mysteries, I picked it up very carefully, only to discover that the spikes were soft and not prickly at all.
Cutting into the soft and slightly leathery skin, first time culinary adventurers might be happily surprised to find a luscious white flesh speckled with tiny jet-black seeds throughout. Some people suggest the seeds are slightly peppery, but I’ve never found them to be especially so.
One of the easiest ways to serve dragon fruit is to use a small spoon or a melon-baller and scoop out the white flesh. The seeds are very small and crunchy, so they add another wonderful layer to the many textures and flavors of a fruit cup or salad.
Although I’ve never concocted a cocktail from the fruit, I’ve read about various adult-beverages that include these tropical delights into the blend. I’ve tossed them into a blender with raspberries, strawberries, lime, and sometimes bananas – but to be honest, I think the best way to enjoy dragon fruit is with a spoon and nothing more.
Shaken, stirred, or spooned – no matter how you enjoy this magical fruit over the summer, it’s always delicious!