Fruit are native to Central and South America where they are known
as pitaya or pitahaya. They are one of the most widely distributed
members of the cactaceae family, and are now found on six continents.
There are three species of dragon fruit in the genus Hylocereus
and one species in the genus Selenicereus. Varieties of Hylocereus
guatemalensis, Hylocereus polyrhizus, and Hylocereus undatus as
well as hybrids of these three species are grown commercially worldwide.
Selenicereus megalanthus is grown commercially on smaller scales
in South America and is especially popular in Columbia.
fruit flesh can be white, red, or magenta all to varying degrees
dependant upon variety. The red fleshed varieties contain lycopene
which is a natural antioxidant known to fight cancer, heart disease,
and lower blood pressure. Despite the health benefits and its spectacular
appearance, the fruit has gone virtually unnoticed for centuries. Today it is the leading fruit export
of Vietnam. It has even caught the attention of Snapple, Tropicana,
and Sobe which are just a few of the major labels that have incorporated
dragon fruit into their bottled fruit drinks.
surrounding this fabulous fruit can be attributed to a legend created
by ingenious Asian marketers.According to the legend the fruit was
created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons. During
a battle when the dragon would breathe fire the last thing to come
out would be the fruit. After the dragon is slain the fruit is collected
and presented to the Emperor as a coveted treasure and indication
of victory. The soldiers would then butcher the dragon and eat the
flesh. It was believed that those who feasted on the flesh would
be endowed with the strength and ferocity of the dragon and that
they too would be coveted by the Emperor.
is written that the dragon’s flame originates deep within
its body near the base of its tail. The meat from this part of the
dragon was the most desirable and most sought after portion. Only
the officers of each division would be privy to this cut of meat.
The ancient Chinese called this cut the “jaina,” which
translates literally to “the sweetest and best tasting.”
The jaina was treasured by all who were privileged enough to taste
it, and it is believed that man’s thirst for the jaina is
what led to the destruction and eventual extinction of all of the