Could the pitaya be the next pomegranate?


The fruit, the Red Pitaya, at a market place
Image via Wikipedia

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is the author a memorable poem about an artichoke, in which the vegetable is infused with military meaning but eventually emasculated by a shopper called Maria.

If I were a poet, I would probably write an ode of my own to the pitaya – the fruit of a cactus plant that is also known by the name “dragonfruit.” I first learned about the pitaya when I lived in Nicaragua in 1996. It was a scary-looking fruit on the outside with a spiny armor. But once you got past that tough exterior, the insides were dripping with a sweet magenta pulp that was loaded with tiny black seeds. Nicaraguans typically made the pitaya into a fruit juice, but sometimes slices of it ended up on salads and other food items.

Apparently there are a range of pitayas that grow around the Southern hemisphere, including Mexico, and this site reports that there are “several” that are from Nicaragua. Some other varieties have a white flesh and yellow exterior. It can also also be found in Vietnam and Malaysia.

I got to thinking about the pitaya recently because in one of my graduate classes we are looking at the company that produces POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. POM has funded a lot of research into the health benefits of the pomegranate and I would love to see the same thing happen with the pitaya  (this study seems to suggest that the pitaya also has high antioxidant potential). Like the pitaya, I found Nicaragua to be a country with a rough, complicated exterior. Once you got past that, though, the country – and the pitaya –  was full of surprises and wonders, which made it well worth the challenge.

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