Monday, August 31, 2015

dragon fruit? it's really cereus!

On Friday, I posted cereus fruits, and on Saturday morning I walked out our front door to find our next-door neighbor talking with another gentleman on the sidewalk beside our cereus. The other gentleman kept saying something about dragon fruit.

I was in a hurry to get to our local fiesta, where I would be volunteering at the garden club's booth, so I didn't hang around to participate in the discussion. But dragon fruit kept nudging my brain and at last brought up the memory of a TV cooking show I'd seen where professional chefs were challenged to prepare an appetizer using dragon fruit. Yes! The picture in my memory matched a picture in my previous day's blog post: the fruit just splitting open and showing a wedge of something black and white.

Throughout the fiesta, I was thinking of dragon fruit. I couldn't wait to get home and do some googling. Info, of course, abounded. If you are already a dragon fruit aficionado, you may want to stop reading right now. But what I'm writing about is not so much dragon fruit per se as my delight at being set straight on something new that applies to my gardening efforts. I find it endlessly fascinating to explore the gaps between what I think I'm growing and what may eventually grace our table.

Here's the overview. Dragon fruit (aka pitaya) come in about four types, based on the variety of cereus that bears them. Our tree-like cactus produces bright red fruit shaped like hand grenades; inside they have black seeds distributed evenly through white pulp. Others, grown from plants with trailing stems, have pointed green scales (making them look more dragon-like) and may have either red or white pulp; the ones with red pulp are juicier and not as sweet as the ones with white pulp. Finally, most of the dragon fruit grown in Southeast Asia have yellow skin with green scales; again, pulp may be white or red. All are low in calories and high in antioxidants.

I found not only an account of the cooking show I'd seen last year, but also numerous videos on how to eat a dragon fruit. These ranged from a raucous piece by Chef Buck (must I warn you about the 'adult' language?) to a comprehensive farm-to-table presentation by a clean-cut young representative of  Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida. The latter offers to have dragon fruit delivered right to your door. 

The idea of delivery raises the question: "How much does dragon fruit cost?" Again, there's a range. Chef Buck got his for $5.99 a pound, and this seems to be the low end. Amazon will send you a box of 3 -- the kind with green scales and white flesh -- for $28.95. Since most dragon fruit sold commercially weigh about a pound each, this is actually about the same price as the $10.00 per pound you're likely to pay in the upscale supermarkets (Whole Foods, Sprouts, Bristol Farms). Local farmers' markets offer them for as low as $7.00 per pound.

Today Steve and I counted four small dragon fruits on our tall cereus. With these and the possibility of an additional four or five from more recent blooms, I don't think we'll make a killing in the dragon fruit market. These are for home consumption, and while we wait for them to mature (probably not until November) we can start collecting recipes. On second thought, maybe just a small wedge will suffice for starters.

Friday, August 28, 2015

cereus fruits

Last Saturday, Steve's former colleagues Louise and Marsha came by to pick him up for an event. They were fascinated by our huge cereus,* which happened to be bearing a number of fat buds as well as some spent blossoms in various stages of dilapidation. We speculated about whether any would turn into fruit. Since Louise is a faithful reader of this blog, I started talking about a post I'd written last year about the fruit that had formed then. Louise said she hadn't seen it, so I thought I'd look it up and send her a link.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, my search was fruitless. I could visualize the photos I'd taken of the cereus fruit, but evidently I'd never even started a draft of the post or uploaded the photos into the draft. Some of the words I'd intended to use were still floating around in my head, but none had been written.

It was easy to find the photos, which I'd stored on the Internet on August 22, 2014. Let's look at them:

On the left is an unripe cereus fruit, and on the right a ripening fruit. The black things on the ground are dead blossoms, and the holes in the blossom ends of the fruits are where the pistil hung for several days after the other parts of the flower had dropped off. I know it's hard to believe that the darker fruit is the unripe one, but bear with me here.

The stem end of the ripe fruit shown above has fattened up to strengthen its bond with the plant, and the fruit shown below has started to open up. I think it looks like some weird hors d'oeuvre (tomato stuffed with cream cheese and poppy seeds?), or maybe 'Pac-Man' rudely talking with his mouth full:

At last, the final shot, where our Pac-Man appears to be frothing at the mouth:

Steve bravely tasted the gooey substance and said it was quite sweet. I'm grateful that he lived to tell the tale and that Louise told me she hadn't read it.

Am I chagrined that I had not brought this story of plant procreation to light last year? Not especially. I think anyone who is serious about writing has a mental stash of texts, and sometimes there's a fine line between those that have actually been written and those that exist only as phantasms. 

For years I struggled to write a poem about the phenomenon of gardenias blooming in our garden in November and, after a lot of over-intellectualizing along with references to Platonism and Victorian literary theory, I came up with this haiku:

                  Spring bloom in fall month 
                  draws wonder and suspicion
                  yet smells sweet as June's.

- - - - - -
 * This venerable plant has appeared in two previous posts on this blog -- it's cereus (August 2012), and cereus business (November 2013)  -- but, as in so many of my botanical and horticultural ramblings, it merely provided a vehicle for other subjects: procrastination, the importance of theme in writing, the poetry of Thomas Gray, etc.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License