A pitaya (pronounced /pɨˈtaɪ.ə/) or pitahaya (English pronunciation: /ˌpɪtəˈhaɪ.ə/) is the fruit of several cactus species, most importantly of the genus Hylocereus (sweet pitayas). These fruit are commonly known as dragon fruit – cf. Chinese huǒ lóng guǒ 火龍果/火龙果 "fire dragon fruit" and lóng zhū guǒ "dragon pearl fruit", or Vietnamese thanh long (green dragon). Other vernacular names are strawberry pear or nanettikafruit.
Native to Mexico and Central and South America, the vine-like epiphytic Hylocereus cacti are also cultivated in Asian countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. They are also found in Okinawa, Hawaii, Israel, northern Australia and southern China. Hylocereus blooms only at night; the large white fragrant flowers of the typical cactusflower shape are among those called "moonflower" or "Queen of the Night". Sweet pitayas have a creamy pulp and a delicate aroma.
If not otherwise stated, this article's content refers specifically to the pitayas of Hylocereus species, or "dragon fruit".
Sweet pitayas come in three types, all with leathery, slightly leafy skin:
* Hylocereus undatus (red pitaya) has red-skinned fruit with white flesh. This is the most commonly-seen "dragon fruit".
* Hylocereus costaricensis (Costa Rica pitaya, often called H. polyrhizus) has red-skinned fruit with red flesh
* Hylocereus megalanthus (yellow pitaya, formerly in Selenicereus) has yellow-skinned fruit with white flesh.
Early imports from Colombia to Australia were designated Hylocereus ocampensis (supposedly red fruit) and Cereus triangularis (supposedly yellow fruit). It is not quite certain to which species these taxa refer to, though the latter is probably the red pitaya.
The fruit can weigh from 150 to 600 grams; some may reach one kilogram. To prepare a pitaya for consumption, the fruit is cut open to expose the flesh. The fruit's texture is sometimes likened to that of the kiwifruit due to the presence of black crunchy seeds. The flesh, which is eaten raw, is mildly sweet and low in calories.; dragon fruit should not be used to accompany strong-tasting food – except to "clean the palate" between dishes. The seeds are eaten together with the flesh, have a nutty taste and are rich in lipids, but they are indigestible unless chewed. The fruit is also converted into juice or wine, or used to flavour other beverages. The flowers can be eaten or steeped as tea. The skin is not eaten, and in farm-grown fruit it may be polluted with pesticides.
Ingestion of significant amounts of red-fleshed dragon fruit (such as Costa Rica Pitaya) may result in pseudohematuria, a harmless reddish discoloration of the urine and faeces.
See Also: florist Paris, Vietnam flower, India flower