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Monday, August 22, 2011

Dragon Fruit aka Pitahaya or Hylocereus

Locavores,  "Here be dragons......."
Hylocereus in bloom

This is the season for eating your dragons if you are lucky enough to have one of eating age (2 years from the nursery plants available in local Central and SoCal nurseries). 

Hylocereus polyrhizus

This is one of the magenta (or red) fruited ones. It came from Whole Foods @ 7.99 a lb this month. On the left the outside of the fruit is visible--red with green tips, about the size of a large artichoke. The taste is somewhere between a strawberry and a kiwi, or a watermelon and a pear. (Think it varies from white fleshed-hylocereus undulata -to red and pink-undulata and yellow--not to mention the  terroir. )

Why grow it? It's delicious, subtle and interesting. Found it best a bit chilled with a squeeze of Meyer lemon. Lime or lemon overpowers it. Pitahaya is spectacular in a salad with slices of kiwi and pineapple. (Recipes can also be found at

It's a cactus, it's low water, it grows easily around here, and is another native of the New World like chayote, red runner beans you can grow in the backyard almost anywhere in SoCal. (Consider: what if there are no grocery stores open after The Big One?) Anyway--pitahaya is local, ecological and at $7.99 a lb--worth growing.

That's not all you can do with it.
Young Dragons

The peelings of dragon fruit can be made into wine (hence, terroir)

6 lbs ripe dragonfruit fruit
• 2 lb sugar
• 6 pts water                                                            
• 1 crushed Campden tablet
• 1-1/2 tsp acid blend
• 1 tsp pectic enzyme
• 1 tsp yeast nutrient
• 1 pkt wine yeast

Single flower

Put water on to boil. Meanwhile, carefully trim the greenery from the fruit, wash the fruit well, and chop it coarsely. Put chopped fruit, acid blend, sugar and yeast nutrient into primary. When water boils, pour into primary and stir until sugar dissolves. Cover with a sanitized cloth and set aside to cool. When at room temperature, add crushed Campden tablet and stir. Recover primary and set aside for 6-8 hours. Add pectic enzyme, stir, recover primary, and set aside another 6-8 hours. Add activated yeast. Stir daily for 7 days. Strain through nylon straining bag and squeeze juice out of fruit pulp. Transfer liquid to secondary, top up if required and fit airlock. Rack, top up and refit airlock every 30 days until wine clears and no new sediments form during a 30-day period. Stabilize, sweeten to taste, wait 3 weeks, and, if no renewed fermentation, rack into bottles. Like most wines, it should improve with age. [Keller's own recipe]Jack Keller @ wine(

Pectinwhat’s that? Pectic Enzyme is recommended for all fresh fruit wines. Add it to the juice prior to fermentation to enhance the clarification process. See

Santa Rosa plum (W)

Campden tablet is used to destroy molds and bacteria. Amazingly enough (joys of the internet) there are winemaker kits for backyard fruit. (see eckraus above). Used to make a sort of May wine from excess Santa Rosa plums.

This particular plum tree was very  slow to bear. So slow that it was threatened with being replaced. Trees hear better than you might think.... in any case, the following year,  and years after it bore tremendous crops of plums which were turned into a fizzy, pink, rather brut wine with a very short shelf life. (No campden tablets available.) Goes to show this oldest of human activities--fermenting excess fruit--is not too challenging . If the Haphazard Gardener can do it, anyone can. 

So tame your dragons into a barrier fence, or grow them it big pots, eat them in a creme brulee', or make them into wine.  



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