Saturday, August 25, 2012

Focus on Fruit - Dragon Fruit and Madrono

First off I have to mention that we have been without internet for over 2 weeks. No reading of newspapers or blogs, no researching interesting things, no Mars photos to see. Nothing but a not working white box staring at me on the desk getting me pissed off as Claro continues to charge us as if it worked! On one of my almost weekly trips to the San Sebastian pulgero I found a guy with dragon fruit!!! Most of the vendors have all the same things I have in my yard at this time of year - guineos (bananas), carambola (star fruit), coconuts, calabaza, avocados, culantro (different than cilantro but more alike than different), quenepas. Once and a while though there is something different! One week it was lychees, another week I found a zocato seedling for a buck (kind of a giant cucumber sort of? One of these last weeks there was a basket of beautiful Dragon Fruit! I knew immediately what they were and that I wanted some! Most shoppers had no idea what they were missing. Then I rambled to see what the fruit tree guy had and he had what he called a "Mahone" tree start and fruits in a baggie. I took some fruits and need to go back for the tree!
Dragon Fruit  or Pitaya hylocereus is a succulent/cactus type plant with super cool flowers and fruit! Being a plant person I had read about Pitaya long before I had gotten to PR. When I got here I found a little start at Enaidas Jardineria in Cabo Rojo. I snatched up the ugly plant and planted it at the other house. It bloomed prolifically for a couple years and never got fruit so I went back to Enaidas for a second one figuring it needed to cross pollinate with another of its kind or something. Still no fruit.
I got loads of huge flowers. The flowers bloom maybe from 9 or 10 at night until around 8 in the morning. Bats are the main pollinators. They smell magnificent and it is really cool to see them unfurl from bud stage to an open flower over the course of hours! Kind of like Little Shop of Horrors! Even Tuca the cat was amazed!
The beautiful flowers were on a really ugly plant. Look at that fruit though...totally cool looking with a really good flavor! The seeds are a lot like kiwi seeds - crunchy but soft...the fruit works on a normal salad or a fruit salad...I could see it in some kind of salsa with mango and avocado and onion or simply with star fruit and a little honey (not needed but would look really pretty).  I wanted fruit from my plants and after thinking about it figured if Enaidas was a smart nursery they would simply be propagating from one pitaya. This could explain my lack of fruit. While driving I noticed a huge pitaya plant in the trees on the side of the road. I picked up a piece and planted that. We moved before I got to see if the thing was gonna fruit but...I took a piece of each with me to the Moca house and we will see what it does here! If the guy has the fruit again I will certainly buy some more - he sold them for $1.25 each and they were apple-sized.
So what is the other fruit, the yellow ball? The guy called it a "mahone" but I couldn't find information on it by that name. What I did find calls it a Madrono (tilde over the n ) and another possibility is Rheeda madruno. I may never know the real name, but I have tasted the fruit and will go back for a tree start (hopefully he still has the baggies of fruit - 3 for a $1- and small trees). The fruit is kind of like a longan, or lychee, or quenepa inside (big seed with small amount of pulpy meat over it) and the taste is nice...kind of a sweet/sour refreshing taste. It is like many Puerto Rico fruits - kind of interesting and kind of pointless and kind of yummy all at once. You can't harvest enough to do anything with them, the seed is most of it, they require sucking and spitting out of seeds, and these things would maybe put them on my "pass up" but I like the taste and rank them up there with longans as being better than lychees. I like to wander the yard and graze. So I give a thumbs up to the spiky yellow golf ball and the awesome Dragon Fruit! Plant some today!


Mike said...

Love the Tuca/dragon flower pic!

Cassie @LifeTransPlanet said...

I want to try dragon fruit -both the plant and the fruit! It looks awesome!