Dragon fruit, or pitaya, is a vinelike cactus which can spread or climb. Pitaya produces edible, ostentatious flowers that can be as much as 14 inches long and 9 inches wide. The fleshy fruits -- actually berries -- are about 4 inches long, with pink, white or red flesh. The oval fruit, produced year-round, has soft scales near the end of the fruit. Both the skin and flesh are edible. While not exactly self-pollinating, all dragon fruit species inter-pollinate with each other and many varieties do not require cross-pollination. Grow more than one plant to enable inter-pollination to produce better quality fruit, or self-pollinate a single plant by hand.
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Pink-Fleshed Dragon Fruit
Varieties of pink dragon fruit that do not require cross-pollination and are suitable for home gardens include American Beauty (Hylocerus guatemalensis), which has pink skin with light green scales and flavourful, dark pink fruit. Hylocerus undatus varieties include Cosmic Charlie, which tastes like a grape crossed with a kiwi fruit; Dark Star, which has a subtle grape flavour; and Halleys Comet (H. undatus x H. polyrhizus), which has deep pink, sweet flesh. Purple Haze (H. undatus) is another dragon fruit that tastes like grape mixed with kiwi.
White-Fleshed Dragon Fruit
Although their skins range from an almost neon to more subdued shades of pink, some varieties of dragon fruit have pure white flesh. Developed in California, David Bowie (H. udatus) and Delight (H. polyrhizus x. H.) are sweet varieties. Seoul Kitchen and Sweet Thompson have bright pink skins with green scales and sweet white flesh. Yellow Dragon (Selenicereus megalanthus) has bright yellow skin with green-tinted scales and highly flavourful white flesh.
H. undatus varieties of dragon fruit have 6 milligrams of calcium per 99.2gr of fresh fruit, while megalanthus varieties like Yellow Dragon have 10 grams. The fruits are high in phosphorus, as well. H. undatus has 19 mg of phosphorus per 992gr. of fruit, and S. megalanthus has 16 mg per 992gr. H. undatus is rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C), with 25 mg. Eat the fruit fresh or turn it into jelly, yoghurt or ice cream, as flavouring for candy or in baked goods. Cooked flower buds are eaten as a vegetable.
Dragon Fruit grows in tropical and subtropical climates where the temperature does not exceed 37.8 degrees Celsius and the plant is not subjected to prolonged freezing temperatures. Plant in well-drained soil high in organic matter with a pH of between 6.3 and 6.8. Train the plant to a trellis or other support to keep the fruit off the ground.
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