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Growing Dragon Fruit

09/25/2010

Growing Dragon Fruit in Our Backyard

Growing dragon fruit in our backyard has two-fold benefits: firstly, it satisfies one’s hobby of gardening and secondly, it provides fruits for healthy body.

Dragon fruit, commonly called “gift of nature”, is the latest entrant to the world of super fruits. It possesses numerous health benefits[1]. It is significantly rich in antioxidants called phytoalbumin which prevents the formation of cancer-causing free radicals. The fruit is low in calories and high in fiber which helps to avoid constipation by acting as natural laxative. The fiber enhances digestion and reduces fat to improve the overall digestive health. It also helps excrete heavy metal toxins from the body.

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Dragon fruit is filled with vitamin C that ensures faster healing of bruises and cuts and helps improve the general immune system. It contains vitamin B1 which participates in the production of energy and metabolism of carbohydrates, vitamin B2 that works as a multi vitamin to recover and improve appetite and vitamin B3 that lowers bad cholesterol level and enhances the appearance of the skin by moisturizing and smoothing it. It also serves as an alternative for rice for the diabetics and known to control blood glucose levels [2].

Botanically known as Hylocereus undatus, dragon fruit is rich in minerals specially calcium and phosphorus. Calcium reinforces bones and helps in the formation of healthy teeth while phosphorus aids in tissue formation. It has carotenes which assist in maintaining and improving the health of the eyes. Regular consumption of the fruit greatly controls asthma and cough and helps lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Growing Dragon Fruit in Our Backyard

Many people appreciate the creamy pulp and delicate aroma of this epiphytic cactus. It is prepared by cutting the fruit into halves. It can be eaten raw by either cutting the halves into watermelon-like slices, or scoop out the two fleshy halves with a tablespoon. Few people find its taste offensive, others consider it bland but the flavor is improved when chilled. Its flesh is commonly pink or white containing tiny seeds which are eaten with the flesh and are rich in valuable lipids. It comes in three varieties: the red-skinned with red flesh, the red-skinned with white flesh and the yellow-skinned with white flesh. The red-skinned with red flesh is widely considered to be the best-tasting. However, pseudohaematuria or harmless reddish discoloration of urine and feces result when significant amount is ingested. The fruit roughly looks like a football with leathery leafy skin.

Native to Mexico and Central and South America[3], dragon fruit is also converted into juice or wine or it can be used to flavor other beverages, It is also marketed as ingredient in functional foods, such as power drinks and delicious vegetable dishes, while syrup made of the entire fruit is used to color pastries and candy. It is also used in cosmetics.

Dragon fruit is commonly known in Spanish as “pitaya” or pitahaya”. It is successfully grown in the tropical countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and the Philippines. It can also be found in Hawaii, China, Australia and Israel. In the country, it is commonly grown in Davao, Cavite, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya and Bataan among other places. Other vernacular names are “fire dragon fruit” or “dragon pearl fruit” in Chinese, “green dragon” or “thanh long” in Vietnamese and strawberry pear or “nanettikafruit” in Costa Rica[4].

Growing Dragon Fruit in Our Backyard

Pitaya cactus is cultivated quite easily either by seeds or stem cuttings. The seeds may be thoroughly separated from the pulp, dried and grown in compost. Germination usually comes 11 to 14 days after shallow planting. Most growers, however, prefer stem cuttings. Four cuttings can be planted in a well-drained soil enriched with animal manure and humus. The cuttings are trained to climb on each side of a concrete post with discarded motorcycle tire mounted on top. The post may be fabricated with a cross-section of about 15 cm and a height of about 1.8 m. As they grow, aerial roots embrace the post while basal roots provide excellent anchorage and vessel of nutrition. Commercial fertilizers can be regularly added to enhance growth and fruiting.

This vining terrestrial cactus-like tree prefers dry tropical or subtropical climates with 50 to 127 cm average rainfall per year[5]. Thriving even in tropical wet areas, heavy rainfall or even excessive water application can trigger the flowers to fall and fruit to rot making fruit production poor. Birds and fruit bats feed on the fruit, while red ants eat the young shoots. Scale insects can be a nuisance by sucking the juice of the stem. The bacterium Xanthomonas campestris causes the stems to rot, while Dothiorella fungi sometimes cause brown spots on the fruit.
Growing Dragon Fruit in Our Backyard

Dragon fruit cactus is an amazingly strange plant. Its beautiful and gently fragrant flower of up to 35 cm in length is short-lived and only reveals itself just once. It only blooms in the dark of night and usually wilts by the morning. That is why it is among those called “Moonflower” or “Queen of the Night”. It has large, white petals and is shaped like that of a typical cactus. In other places, the flowers are eaten or steeped as tea. Nocturnal creatures such as bats or moths generally help in pollination.

Dragon fruit is potentially a productive crop. Depending on the growing condition, it matures and starts to bear fruit after almost one year. Flowering usually starts on May and ends on December. Fruit is harvested 30-50 days after flowering and can sometimes have 5-6 cycles of harvests per year. Each fruit can weigh from 150-600 grams while other varieties can reach one kilogram. Some growers claim that it has a potential of producing 30 tons of fruit per hectare per year[6].

Legends say that the fruit was created by fire-breathing dragons. It was believed that one is empowered with the same strength and ferocity of a dragon by eating the dragon fruit. Other stories say that the dragon fruit looks like a dragon’s egg[7].

Our Creator has been very generous to have given us plants to grow for food–food that would build up and restore health[8], food that can even be produced directly from our backyard.

Credit to www.agribusinessweek.com

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