Dragon fruit

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala

The dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) is a tropical fruit that belongs to the climbing cacti (Cactaceae) family. Widely cultivated in Vietnam, the fruit is popular in Southeast Asia.1 Apart from being refreshing and tasty, it has been noted that the dragon fruit is a rich source of vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus.2

Origin and distribution
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.4 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.5 The French introduced the fruit into Vietnam over a hundred years ago.6 

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.7 However, other countries such as Thailand, Israel, northern Australia, southern China, the Philippines and Hawaii have also been trying to grow the fruit.8 

Description
The plant is a climbing cactus vine that grows well in dry areas.9 Because of its epiphytic nature, it grows best in soil with a high level of organic materials.10 Its flowers bloom only at night, hence the plant is sometimes also called the “moonflower” or “Lady of the Night”.11 The flowers, which bloom for only one night,12 are white and large, measuring 20 cm long or more.13 They are bell-shaped and are fragrant when in bloom.14 Pitahaya plants can have between four to six fruiting cycles in one year.15 It can be propagated by seed or by stem cuttings.16

The dragon fruit has a dramatic appearance, with bright red, purple or yellow-skinned varieties and prominent scales.17 The fruit is oval, elliptical or pear-shaped. The flesh has a subtly flavoured sweet taste or sometimes slightly sourish taste.18 The flesh is either white or red, with edible black seeds dotted all over.19

The dragon fruit is closely related to the orchid cacti, or epiphyllum, which are known for their large and impressive flowers. The pitahaya can be cross-pollinated with the epiphyllum.20

Usage and potential
The fruit is commonly eaten raw and is thought to taste better chilled.21 It is also served as a juice or made into a fruit sorbet.22 The fruit can be used to flavour drinks, while syrup made of the whole fruit is used to colour pastries and candy.23 Unopened flower buds can be cooked like vegetables.24 The dragon fruit reputedly improves eyesight and controls hypertension.25

Variant names
Common names: dragon fruit, dragon pearl fruit,26 pitahaya,27  strawberry pear,28 night-blooming cereus, Belle of the Night,29 Cinderella plant30
Scientific name: Hylocereus undatus31
Malay/Indonesian: buah naga or buah mata naga32
Mandarin: long guo33
Vietnamese: thanh long34



Authors
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja & Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman



References
1. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)

2. Rebecca, O.P.S., Boyce, A.N., & Chandran, S.  (2010). Pigment identification and antioxidant properties of red dragron fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus). African Journal of Biotechnology, 9(10), pp. 1450–1454. Retrieved 2020, March 8 from Academic Journals.org website: https://academicjournals.org/journal/AJB/article-full-text-pdf/FC04AFB17601
3. CAB International. Invasive Species Compendium: Hylocereus undatus (dragon fruit). Retrieved 2020, March 8 from CABI website:  https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/27317#0B69A603-7F0F-4E82-93DF-B581539D66B0
4. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
5. Pitahaya. The Oxford English Dictionary. (1989.) Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press. (Call no.: R 423 OXF-[DIC])
6. Paull, R.E., & Duarte, O. (2012). Tropical Fruits: Crop Production Science in Horticulture 24. CABI, p. 325. (Not available in NLB holdings)
7. Doanh Nhan. (2014, February 26). Earning $1 billion, but fruit exporters can’t get good night’s sleep. VietNamNet Online Newspaper. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from VietNamNet Online Newspaper website: https://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/96200/earning--1-billion--but-fruit-exporters-can-t-get-good-night-s-sleep.html
8. Doanh Nhan. (2014, February 26). Earning $1 billion, but fruit exporters can’t get good night’s sleep. VietNamNet Online Newspaper. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from VietNamNet Online Newspaper website: https://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/business/96200/earning--1-billion--but-fruit-exporters-can-t-get-good-night-s-sleep.html
9. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA); Morton, J. (1987). Strawberry pear. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/strawberry_pear_ars.html; Trade winds fruit. (2004). Dragon fruit. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Trade Winds Fruit website: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/dragon-fruit.htm
10. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA); Trade winds fruit. (2004). Dragon fruit. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Trade Winds Fruit website: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/dragon-fruit.htm
11. Small, E. (2011). Top 100 exotic food plants. CRC Press, p. 101. (Not available in NLB holdings)
12. Trade winds fruit. (2004). Dragon fruit. Retrieved 2020, March 17 from Trade Winds Fruit website: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/dragon-fruit.htm
13. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
14. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
15. Trade winds fruit. (2004). Dragon fruit. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Trade Winds Fruit website: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/dragon-fruit.htm
16. Trade winds fruit. (2004). Dragon fruit. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Trade Winds Fruit website: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/dragon-fruit.htm
17.  Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, pp. 128–129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
18.   Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
19. Paull, R.E, & Duarte, O. (2012). Tropical Fruits: Crop Production Science in Horticulture 24. CABI, p. 329. (Not available in NLB holdings); Luders, L. & McMahon, G. (May 2006). The Pitaya or dragon fruit. Agnote. Retrieved 2020, March 26 from Department of Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines, Northern Territory Government website: https://dpir.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/232933/778.pdf
20. Top Tropicals. (n.d.). Pitaya, Pitahaya. Retrieved 2020, March 26 from Top Tropicals website: https://toptropicals.com/html/toptropicals/articles/cacti/pitaya.htm
21. Trade winds fruit. (2004). Dragon fruit. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Trade Winds Fruit website: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/dragon-fruit.htm
22. Karp, D. (2002, September 18). Purple, spiny, and heading your way. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Los Angeles Times website: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2002-sep-18-fo-pitahaya18-story.html; Morton, J. (1987). Strawberry pear. Retrieved 2020, March 17 from Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/strawberry_pear_ars.html; Rolek, B. (2019, July 26). Dragon Fruit Frozen Sorbet Dessert. Retrieved 2020, March 26 from The Spruce Eats website: https://www.thespruceeats.com/dragon-fruit-sorbet-recipe-1136004 
23. Morton, J. (1987). Strawberry pear. Retrieved 2020, March 17 from Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/strawberry_pear_ars.html; Trade winds fruit. (2004). Dragon fruit. Retrieved 2020, March 17 from Trade Winds Fruit website: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com/content/dragon-fruit.htm
24. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA); Morton, J. (1987). Strawberry pear. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/strawberry_pear_ars.html
25. Erum Akbar Hussain, Zubi Sadiq, & Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq. (2018). Betalains: biomolecular aspects. Springer International Publishing, p. 24. (Not available in NLB holdings)
26. Small, E. (2011). Top 100 exotic food plants. CRC Press, p. 101. (Not in NLB holdings)
27.  Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
28. Morton, J. (1987). Strawberry pear. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Purdue University Center for New Crops & Plant Products website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/strawberry_pear_ars.html
29. Vaughan, J.G. (2009). The new Oxford book of food plants. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 676. (Call no.: 641.303 VAU)
30. Sumia Akram, & Muhammad Mushtaq. Dragon seed oil. In Mohamed Fauzy Ramadan (Ed.),  Fruit oils: chemistry and functionality, 675– 690. Switzerland: Springer Nature, p. 676. (Not in NLB holdings)
31. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 129. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
32. Buah segar Malaysia. (2007, April 28). Berita Harian, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Dragon fruit frenzy. (2015, July 27). Taipei Times. Retrieved 2020, March 20 from Taipei Times website: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/lang/archives/2015/07/27/2003623960
34. Dragon fruit assessment manual. Retrieved 2020, March 26 from NC State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences website: https://hortintl.cals.ncsu.edu/articles/dragon-fruit-assessment-manual



The information in this article is valid as at March 2020 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops
Nature>>Plants
Plants
Tropical fruit--Asia, Southeastern