At the Farmers' Market: Dragonfruit
Drive up Brookhurst Street toward the 22 and you'll see houses with strange, surreal trees that look as though they're made of cactus; a closer look reveals that they actually are succulents, long ropy ones that are tied onto forms to look like trees. They have blindingly bright flowers, like most succulents, but after the flowers die, the tips of the succulents bulge out.
These are dragonfruit, also known as pitaya or pitahaya, and they are a tropical fruit that's well-known in southern Mexico, Central America and Southeast Asia. For a long time, the only dragonfruit came irradiated from Mexico or Vietnam and was a woody imitator of the fruit in its native habitat.
Now, growers in Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties are growing the beautiful, alien fruit.
To eat a dragonfruit, slice it in half through the stem end, then slice each half in half again through the stem end. The inside will either be purple or white, and studded with soft seeds. Peel the outer skin back and the fruit will release in a single wedge; eat the entire thing, seeds and all, like a kiwi.
Dragonfruit tastes best fresh, though chilled; since the flavor is fairly delicate, it's more about juicy refreshment than an unsubtle smack of sugar. Still, after a long time exercising outdoors (a bike ride, for example), a dragonfruit hits the spot.
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