How To Eat Dragon Fruit, For The Uninitiated

If you've ever wandered through your local grocery store's exotic produce section, you may have spotted a few fruits with unique features that caught your eye. Among the cartons of sweet-smelling lychee and piles of bumpy green jackfruit, one unmissable fruit is the vibrantly-colored pitaya, otherwise known as dragon fruit. With bright pink skin and long green tips, this fruit may be one of the most aesthetically pleasing. Aside from its intriguing appearance, the fruit is often touted as a superfood thanks to its rich antioxidants and stacked with vitamins and minerals. 

You may see a rise in dragon fruit in your grocery store during the summer months when it's in season through fall. This timing makes it perfect for including in your refreshing fruit salads and cold smoothies that you'll be inspired to make on the hottest days. However, before you can start throwing freshly chopped dragon fruit into your blender, you must know how to efficiently cut the fruit open. Also, there is a specific way to cut into it to yield the highest amount for all your summertime recipes.

How to open dragon fruit

One of the first things you may notice about dragon fruit is its thick, durable peel with sharp-pointed scales, hence the fitting dragon name. These features can be intimidating when attempting to cut and open one; however, when armed with a sharp knife, you can feel confident slicing into the juicy center.

There are a couple of methods to successfully open the fruit. One option is to start by slicing off the ends and then standing the fruit on its wider end, slicing into it lengthwise in a downward motion. This makes it much easier to peel the skin off either side, and you're left with a perfectly bare dragonfruit ready to be eaten; if any tough spots remain, they can simply be sliced off. 

However, many people tend to use a spoon to scoop out the desired fruit. All this method requires is to slice a ripe dragon fruit in half. Once halved, insert a spoon between the peel and fruit and move the spoon around the entire fruit's circumference until the inner portion is loose enough to remove. After using either method, dragon fruit can be sliced into cubes or used whole in a recipe. But, these steps will only yield tasty results if it is ripe. 

How to tell if dragon fruit is ripe

Ripe dragon fruit will have an even, waxy skin with green-colored tips. Apart from the most common pink variety, some dragon fruits come with a yellow-colored peel. Whichever outer color it shows off, ready-to-eat fruit will display a smooth texture and consistent coloring. The feel of the fruit should also have a slight give when gently pressed, while a hard one might need a few more days to reach its ideal ripeness.

If you touch your dragon fruit and it has a squishy feel without any firmness, and it has more than a few brown spots, it's passed its prime. Another sign of it being overripe is that the stem will appear wrinkly or dried up. Once cut open, the pulpy flesh should be white, red, or even purple flecked with black seeds, depending on the variety. While either version will have a mild sweet and tart taste, the inside color may make a difference in the dishes you choose to prepare them with.

How to cook with dragon fruit

Once you have your ripe dragon fruit peeled and ready to go, there are endless uses for the sweet fruit. The taste of dragon fruit is often compared to a cross between a kiwi and a pear, and its juicy texture is perfect for making juice or blending it into different creations.

Making a dragon fruit smoothie bowl is a great option that can be quickly whipped up with an assortment of berries, various powders and seeds, and refreshing coconut water for an added tropical flavor. The mixture will also take on the fruit's vibrant pink-purple hue, giving this dish a bonus for its stunning appearance. These smoothie bowls can be topped with other fruits, such as raspberries and bananas, along with chia seeds, granola, or cacao nibs for a boost of flavor and color.

Since dragon fruit has a unique subtle flavor, other fruits that have a bolder and brighter taste can easily be thrown together with it to create a beautiful fruit salad. Some options include blueberries, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, or melons. Once you familiarize yourself with cutting and tasting a dragon fruit, you can get more creative. Turn its juice into a fancy cocktail using vodka, Elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice, or use the flesh as a garnish to elevate your favorite desserts or bed of greens.