Fruit is amazing, it is low in calories, full of vitamins, and tastes delicious. Living in North America one does not often get the chance to experience some of the more strange and delicious fruits that grow in tropical climates. One such fruit is known as the Pitaya or Dragon fruit, but don’t worry this fruit does not breath fire, thought that could be cool.
This fruit grows on a species of climbing or crawling cactus that is thought to be indigenous to Central America. It produces very large whitish flowers that only bloom at night and are pollinated by bats and moths. After the flowers are pollinated, wacky pink fruit with the beginnings of yellow-green overlaid leaves develop with white pulp and little black edible seeds inside. The taste of this fruit is somewhat mild, but sweet, and resembles a mix of kiwi and pear.
To eat this fruit all you need to do is slice it in half and scoop out the soft inside, or cut it into quarters and peel off the skin removing any pink parts, which are bitter. Dragon fruit is eaten raw and tastes best chilled, chopped up and added to fruit salad, or blended into a smoothie.
There are three different kinds of dragon fruit which all grow from this species of climbing cactus. The most common is pink with white pulp and is known scientifically as Hylocereus undatus. They also come in pink with red pulp Hylocereus costaricensis, and yellow with white pulp Hylocereus megalanthus.
This cactus is most commonly grown for its unique fruit, but it is also grown ornamentally for the climbing vine-like cactus and the large white blooms that only come out at night and are sometimes called “moonflower”, or “Queen of the night”. It is often grown trained up on a trellis where the long arms can hang down off the ground and the fruit can be picked easily.
If you live in a suitable climate, zone 9-11, or have access to a greenhouse this fruiting cactus is fairly easy to grow. if you get ahold of a cutting, let it sit out for a few days to a week to let it callus which will prevent it from rotting when planted, then plant it in a soil mix of potting soil and perlite to provide good drainage.
This plant is a cactus so it will not need to be watered as much as a regular plant. However, this is a tropical cactus and will need to be watered more often than normal cactus, about once a week should be adequate.
The cactus vine will eventually need support and most times is grown on a trellis. After planting cut off the lateral branches to promote growth up the trellis, and then tie the stem with twine or fabric to the trellis to help it grow until it can grow lateral roots to support itself.
There are some species that will self-pollinate, but most species will need another plant of the same species to become pollinated and produce fruit.