Why Are Dragon Fruits Named after Dragons?
Dragon fruits may not breathe flames, but their fiery appearance reminds many of the mythical flying beast. They certainly stand out in a grocery store! They’re named after dragons because of the way they look. Dragons are scaly, snake-like creatures that often come in brilliant colors. Most dragon fruits, also called pitayas, are bright red or pink. Less often, their skins are yellow. They also have green, dragon-like scales.
The dragon fruit’s scientific name is derived from the Greek word hyle (woody), the Latin word cereus (waxen) and the Latin word undatus, which refers to the wavy edges of its stems. The origin of the dragon fruit is unknown, but it is probably native to Central America. It is also known as pitahaya in Mexico, and pitaya roja in Central America and northern South America. The Spanish name pitahaya may also refer to several other species of tall cacti with flowering fruit. The French introduced the fruit into Vietnam over a hundred years ago.
In 2013, it was reported that Vietnam is the world’s leading exporter of dragon fruit, with revenues from dragon fruit making up 55 percent of the country’s fruit export turnover. However, other countries such as Thailand, Israel, northern Australia, southern China, the Philippines and Hawaii have also been trying to grow the fruit.
Dragon fruits grow on a cactus. This plant is called the Honolulu queen. It’s a very unique cactus. Its flowers only open at night! Today, people all over the world grow Honolulu queen cacti to harvest dragon fruit. Cut open a dragon fruit, and you’ll find white pulp with black seeds. The pulp is sweet. Some people compare it to kiwifruit, watermelon, or pears.
The fruit is commonly eaten raw and is thought to taste better chilled. It is also served as a juice or made into a fruit sorbet. The fruit can be used to flavour drinks, while syrup made of the whole fruit is used to colour pastries and candy. Unopened flower buds can be cooked like vegetables. The dragon fruit reputedly improves eyesight and controls hypertension.
Even though it’s very low-calorie, it contains small amounts of many nutrients. This includes vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. It also has zinc, fiber, and magnesium. Most people consider dragon fruit to be very healthy. Even better, dragon fruit is full of antioxidants. That means it can help stop damage to your body’s cells. Experts say dragon fruit can help fight inflammatory conditions, too. That includes arthritis and gout. Dragon fruit may also help control diabetes. That’s because it aids in the growth of pancreatic cells.