Five lonely dragon fruit, nestled together in a large cardboard box, caught my attention at the grocery store. My grandson and I are always on the lookout for what’s unfamiliar, untasted, and to us, exotic. However, the $5.98 price tag on a single, fist-sized piece of magenta flamboyance did not appeal to my innate thriftiness.
“We’ll buy it another time,” I said to Christian, unresolved about when that would be. But, in our initial blog, I wondered what people did with weirdo items like dragon fruit, a wondering which prompted a response from author Laura Kalpakian. She said she saw them “all the time” at her local grocery store, “but they’re too expensive to buy and try out.”
“Aha!”! I thought. Popular demand! An excuse to exit frugality! A splurge was in order. Furthermore, well-traveled writer and web designer Lisa Dailey said that while dragon fruit was an exorbitant $8 each in Guam, it was plentiful and cheap in Vietnam. Her teenaged boys loved the generous spread of dragon fruit at their Vietnamese hotel’s breakfast buffet.
I returned to the store, where four of the five lonely dragon fruits remained. Three had the recommended criteria for selection: bright, evenly colored skin and no dry or brittle brown leaves. I picked what I thought was the best one. No labels on the box indicated where they’d come from—they, the edible fruit of a pitahaya cactus, are native to Mexico, but also grown in Central America and Asia. One food writer said they look like “a mythical fire-breathing artichoke.”
I delivered my purchase to Christian. Slicing it in half, he was surprised at the ease with which a knife cut through the leathery skin. We stood in the driveway, social distanced, each scooping out a spoonful of smooth rounds of white flesh dotted with seeds. I loved the texture, the subdued succulence. He shared some with his sister Elise.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“Kind of tastes like a kiwi,” he said.
I nodded. “Do you like it?”
“It’s a little bland. I wish it was sweeter.”
Not exactly a rousing, five-star seal of approval, but I could see what he meant. Subdued succulence may have been too poetic. “Okay,” I said. “Maybe I can find a riper, sweeter version.”
Riper and sweeter came in a package at Costco: “Organic Dragon Fruit Supreme,” a frozen medley of pineapple, peach, mango, coconut and chunks of dragon fruit. Christian divided up the package’s contents. We agreed to experiment, in our separate kitchens, with smoothies during the week and discuss at our next Zoom meeting.
I also romped through the information-rich internet. A product’s presence in Costco suggested visibility elsewhere. I didn’t expect it to be on Etsy, but there it was: freeze-dried dragon fruit for $11.95, number of ounces unlisted. Indeed, dragon fruit was everywhere— in gummies with CBD and in crunchy dragon fruit chips. Trident even had dragon fruit-flavored gum and Welch’s sold a blended dragon fruit cocktail juice. Clever marketers used dragon fruit and lychee in “New Slime and Putty Toys.” The company Siren Song Elixirs included dragon fruit in a perfume and Etsy had t-shirts and pins featuring dragon fruit.
Advertisements suggested immune support, reduction of inflammation, and the promotion of balanced bacteria in guts. Dragon fruit seemed to be the new superfood, touted for low calories and significant amounts of iron, vitamin C and magnesium. Recipes abounded for fruit salads, puddings, popsicles, sorbets, jams, jellies, sauces, and even a cracker spread.
Christian and I stuck to smoothies of which there were many. Christian developed his own recipe. His sister Elise likes the smoothies he makes her, topped off with whipping cream.
CHRISTIAN’S DRAGON FRUIT SMOOTHIE
½ cup mangoes
½ cup frozen dragon fruit
1 cup honey crisp apple juice
½ cup almond milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 tablespoons sugar
- Place one cup of apple juice in blender
- Add mangoes and blend
- Add dragon fruit medley and blend
- Slowly add almond milk and blend
- Dump in protein powder and sugar and blend.
LINDA’S SMOOTHIE, SERENDIPITY EDITION
All my smoothies begin with a frozen banana, vanilla protein powder, almond milk and whatever fresh or frozen fruits, veggies or seeds I have on hand, blended in stages. Sometimes I throw in crushed ice to thicken the mixture. I like the flexibility of Stephanie Kercher’s approach at www.gratefulgrazers.com which I have adapted. My favorite ingredients are bolded; dragon fruit is in CAPS because I’m amped on dragon fruit.
- START with fruit: bananas, berries, apple, DRAGON FRUIT, mango, kiwi, peaches, pineapple
- ADD greens: kale, spinach, collard greens
- ADD fats: chia seeds, ground flax, nut butter, avocado, yogurt
- STEP UP the flavor: lemon, mint, turmeric, fresh ginger, lime, honey, vanilla
- FINISH/ADJUST with liquid: favorite milk, fruit juice, coconut water
What do YOU think? Would you like to try dragon fruit? Are they worth it?
My answer is yes, but not often.