Dragon fruit: nutrition facts and health benefits

Dragon fruit

The dragon fruit, also called pitaya, is the fruit of a cactus named Hylocereus. It can be grown inside homes, but it needs certain conditions to bloom and give fruit, which is not possible with in temperate regions.

It’s a pity because its night bloom exudes a sweet vanilla scent. This plant has more, one of the fastest growths of its family. This fruit grows and happily settles on other plants around it, mainly on trees, in Latin America and Vietnam.

Dragon fruit history

Dragon fruits illustrate well the evolution of the fruit in the plant kingdom which tends to the deep burial of the carpels in the stem. These “fruit stalks” frequent among the Cactaceae have here the peculiarity of carrying large scales similar to the leaves whose plant has remained free. The prickly pear is also part of the cactus family doesn’t have scales but has retained the ability to root as a stalk would.

In their area of origin, the fruits are most often the object of a small-scale harvest consumed locally. The Hylocereus was imported by the French settlers in the early nineteenth century in Vietnam and is now one of its main export products with nearly 2 000 ha of cultivation between Saigon and Mui Ne. Its production is also large-scale in Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua and develops in Australia, Israel and some French islands such as Reunion. H. Undatus was introduced to the Reunion in 1895, costaricensis a century later and the production of dragon fruit was developed in the years 2000. H. trigonus is a species of the endangered Caribbean.

The statistical study carried out on the number of publications among the English works of the name of this cactus, Hylocereus defined in 1902 shows interesting things about their popularity. There is a peak of release in 1851. This genus includes species described from the early nineteenth century. It follows the same trend as the other two genera Selenicereus (the most cited) and Aporocactus whose use exploded for the three a little before the 1920s before decreasing strongly in the 1960s. The frequency of use of these names has become stable since, except for the very rarely quoted Aporocactus.
The name Hylocereus comes from the Greek word hulos which designates the forest and Latin cereus, the candle or the wax in reference to the wax that covers the epidermis of the plant. The specific name Undatus evokes the wavy margins of the rods. Pitaya finds its origin in Spanish which inspired the Tahitian.

The medicinal uses of dragon fruit

Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit originating from the American continent, it can be found in countries such as Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Haiti and Venezuela. The name was given by the Haitians, because their meaning is the thorny fruit, although the country of origin of the plant is uncertain. It was introduced in Hawaii in 1836, and became very popular there. There are more than 17 varieties, the sea level growth at 1,800 meters high, but the best specimens are about 800 meters.

It is a cactus that can develop both on land and on other plants, thanks to its adventitious roots and three-rib stems. Leaves are thin, elongated, while its flower is characterized by its large size, as it reaches 30 cm in length, being white on the outside or slightly greenish. Pitahaya Fruit is ovoid between 8 and 10 cm long and 7 cm wide, green in its youth and in their maturity red or yellow, with a crust filled with deciduous scales. At first, the pulp of the fruit is white, at maturity becomes reddish with many small dark brown seeds.

Advantages of dragon fruit

The infusion of flowers is used to combat certain conditions of nervous character, as is the case with anxiety and insomnia. It also has general tonic qualities, so it is recommended to improve the circulation and prevention of heart disease. It is slightly sedative, so is used to relieve some minors, but annoying as headaches and pains in the gums.

A digestive level has great benefits; it is laxative, useful in case of digestive disorders or constipation. Regular fruit consumption fights water retention, prevents kidney stones and stimulates digestive functions. To get the benefits of this fruit as a purgative is necessary to chew very well the fruit seeds and eat them.

For constipation: to fight against constipation you need to eat 2 or 3 dragon fruits one hour before breakfast for five days, the food at night should be replaced by papaya to get better and faster results.

It is a good addition to diets or obesity treatments. It is recommended to always take the pitaya juice to detoxify the body. In case of irritable or inflamed bowels, it is advisable to take two or three times a day of dragon fruit juice.

The frequent consumption of dragon fruit helps to prevent kidney disease, which makes this fruit a daily food to prevent future kidney problems or aid in treatments if and suffer from these conditions.

Because of its high vitamin C content is essential for the formation of bones, teeth and strengthen the immune system. Some specialists recommend this fruit to peoplesuffering from anemia.

To get rid of dysentery, it is a home-based dragon fruit that will help the end of this annoying disease remedy. It is necessary to crush the root of the dragon fruit and boil it for 3 minutes on low heat in water. Once away from the fire should let this rest for 10 minutes without discovering itself, after this sweeten to taste with honey. This stuff should be left to cool all night, and the next day a glass of this drink before breakfast. Repeat this treatment for a week and see the results.

Dragon fruit properties

Fresh fruit is commonly consumed in Asia and only begins to appear on European supermarkets. It is also found in the form of a very thirsty fruit juice, sorbet or a dehydrated form. It is sometimes poorly tolerated by people with allergic tendencies.

These low-calorie fruits (50 cal/100 g of flesh), rich in fiber, minerals and antioxidants are reputed to promote digestion while showing slightly laxatives through oilseed seeds. The red-fleshed variety contains a significant amount of betacyanine (0.32-0.41 mg) and phenolic compounds which gives it a high antioxidant properties. The ORAC index (antioxidant activity per micromole of trolox equivalent for 100 g) reaches 880 to 1 130. In addition, dragon fruits prevents gout by lowering the rate of uric acid in the blood. It is also recommended in case of type 2 diabetes to reduce blood glucose. Its juice can on the other hand serve as food coloring just like that of the red beet. Floral buds are consumed in Central America. The plant also serves as a rootstock for various globose-shaped cacti.

Contraindications

It is not advisable to use allergy-prone, gastritis, or gastric ulcer.

In the kitchen

The texture of the dragon fruit, crisp and melting at the same time, is closer to the kiwi. Nevertheless, contrary to its appearance, its taste is fine, slightly sweet and little pronounced. As a comparison, its flavor resembles of melon.

At the table, it is recommended to taste it raw before meal because it’s very digestible and can cause bloating or sensation of heaviness among the most sensitive. Cut in half in the direction of length, you can eats its flesh raised or not with a drizzle of lemon juice. Otherwise, usually people consume dragon fruit in the form of juice, smoothie, fruit salad or dessert, integrated in cakes, muffins, cakes and company.

The fruit of the tropics, the dragon fruit is eaten all year round. It is mainly found in exotic grocery stores, commonly marketed under the name “dragon fruit” or “pitaya”.

Harvest

When and how to harvest?

Under tropical climate, the fruits are present all year round in supermarkets. They harvest as soon as they get out of color. In H. costaricensis the fruit bursts 4-5 days after its coloring, but without causing rotting. Yields range from 10-30 tonnes/ha.
To avoid squeezing the fruit, use a pruner.

The conservation of the Pitaya

The fruit is preserved fairly well, which is one of the reasons for developing its export culture.

Botany

Dragon fruit refers to several Cactceae fruits belonging to the genus Hylocereus. It is also called “pitaya” because of its scaly, bright pink or yellow appearance. The plant with little thorny articulated stems lives on the trees of tropical forests.

The genus Hylocereus brings together 16 species of vines or epiphytic plants in the regions of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and the Caribbean, forming part of the family of Cactceae family. These fatty plants grow in areas where precipitation is between 340 and 3 500 rainfalls per year, but have a dry, wet season alternation.

Like the Epiphyllum or the Easter cactus (Hatiora), the green stalks are succulent and devoid of leaves with 2 or 3 sides (trigone twigs). They include at the level of crenulations, areolas with very short stings. These plants, called vine-like candles, can reach up to 12 meters high thanks to powerful aerial roots allowing them to cling firmly to the trunks and climb. They can also crawl on the seaside rocks that adjoin the warm and dry rainforests. The plant becomes quite fast cumbersome for a young tree which can collapse under its weight. The cactus is sometimes free from the soil by drawing in the humus formed at the branch of the tree, which is why this plant is considered to be hemi-epiphyte.

The interlacing of the stems around the tree of the species Hylocereus undatus reminds of the ripples of a dragon body from which the Asian name of its fruit, the “Dragon fruit”.
The flowering of Hylocereus which is spread over 3 days among Hylocereus Undatus, is even more spectacular than its vegetation. A large number of flowers close to 25 cm from diameter opens at nightfall around 19-20 pm, hence their nickname and close at dawn at around 5:00 am. The buds, born at the level of the areolas, resemble an elongated artichoke giving birth to an extraordinary vanilla-scented corolla in the space of 15 days. The multiple white petals form a tan cut of filamentous petals of greenish-colored cream. Many cream colored stamens associated with a large, starry pistil decorate the heart of the flower, attracting moths of the genus Sphynx or bats.

The dragon fruit are self sterile and require the presence of another clone or other species of Hylocereus flowered at the same time to be fertilized on the one hand and the presence of the pollinator, on the other hand. In the species Hylocereus undatus, this is a small South American Bat (Maduca). People can also act with a paintbrush to perform the work of the bat, while knowing that self fertilization does not give anything. The amount of pollen deposited acts on the size of the fruit, which is why the bees sometimes manage to perform the fertilization, but the fruits remain small.

Fruit arrives at maturity 30-40 days after fertilization. Some species such as H. undatus produce the famous fruit called pitaya, still written Pitahaya, colloquially renamed “dragon fruit” by Asians. These fleshy berries of about 10-15 cm in diameter, weighing 350 to 1 000 grams are recognized by their thick, bright pink skin covered with green leafy scales and then roses. The interior has a flesh dotted with small black seeds, reminiscent of the kiwi. The sweet and fine flavor reveals itself however much less acid leaving a aftertaste of milk. These fruits are eaten fresh at the small spoon once split by the medium, in sorbet or dried.

Green Tips

The Hylocereus have a hardiness that allows them to thrive in very diverse areas with rainfall ranging from 340 to 3 500 mm/yr and altitudes ranging from 0 to 2 750 m as in Mexico. They also tolerate high heats in the order of 38-40 °C. In contrast, temperatures below 12 °C sometimes cause necrosis on the stems of certain species. In addition, the species undatus, purpusii and costaricensis, although they are semi-epiphytic, are resistant to full sunlight provided they have enough water. The Hylocereus trigonus field culture in the West Indies, for example, requires 50% sun occultation.

The pollination of dragon fruits does not seem to be a problem in Asia when it is to be done manually as well in South Africa, Madagascar, Israel, the meeting as in the Antilles. This operation is quite easy to carry out, as the flower is large and the pollen can be deposited just before the full opening of the flower, from 4.30 pm until 11 am the next day. Pollen from another clone or other species can be stored for 3 to 9 months in the freezer (at-18 or-196 ° C).

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