The world of the pitahaya, the dragon fruit

Without a doubt, pitahaya, the yellow dragon fruit is the best in the world. The product has gained worldwide recognition, not only for its unbeatable taste so far, but also for its laxative and vitaminic power (antioxidants, fibers, vitamin C)., 

Everything you need to know about the pitaya or dragon fruit. Photo: Pixabay
Everything you need to know about the pitaya or dragon fruit. Photo: Pixabay

When consuming the Sonora pitahaya, one must keep in mind that it is a completely organic fruit and that the characteristics of its ecosystem provide it with a flavor and properties different from other parts of Mexico.

The pitahaya has antioxidant properties, which is mainly attributed to the presence of betalains that give it the red color; therefore the fruit represents an alternative to increase and diversify the intake of antioxidants among the population of arid and semi-arid areas of Mexico.

If pitahaya is bought in the public streets, it is necessary to pay attention to the state of maturity of the fruit and to check that its peel is not burst, to avoid consuming a product that could have been contaminated during its collection, transport, handling, and commercialization, and cause intestinal infections.

Pitaya: properties, benefits and nutritional value

The pitaya, also known as the dragon fruit, is a fruit native to Central America. It is oval in shape, with thorns on the outside and three varieties can be found: yellow on the outside and white pulp with seeds on the inside, red on the outside and white pulp or red pulp with seeds on the inside. It is very aromatic and its flavor is very sweet and pleasant.

Dragon fruit colors. Photo: Wikimedia
Dragon fruit colors. Photo: Wikimedia

The pitaya is a treasure from the nutritional point of view, it contains antioxidants, mucilage, ascorbic acid, phenols. It is rich in Vitamin C, it also contains B vitamins, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron, and it has high water content and has vegetable protein and soluble fiber. The seeds, which are edible, contain beneficial fatty acids. And one of its most outstanding properties is its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action, which is why the WHO recommends its consumption.

Despite its peculiar appearance, the pitaya is eaten like any other fruit. It is cut in half and the pulp is spooned out, and the seeds are also eaten. It can be incorporated into the preparation of smoothies, ice cream, and cakes, and is also used to make jams and compotes.

Nutritional value per 100 grams

- Calories 54

- Water 84,40 %.

- Carbohydrates 13.20 g

- Protein 1,4 g.

- Total fat 0,40 g.

- Fibre 0,5 g.

- Vitamin C 8mg.

- Calcium 10mg.

- Iron 1,3 mg.

- Phosphorus 26 mg.

Properties and benefits

- Delays cellular aging.

- Strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets

- It has an anti-inflammatory effect.

- It helps us to regulate the intestinal transit, and its seeds have a laxative effect.

- It helps us prevent kidney stones.

- It regulates the level of sugar in the blood.

- Stimulates the production of collagen.

- It improves the absorption of iron (essential to avoid or fight iron deficiency anemia).

- Excellent for the formation of bones and teeth.

- As it is rich in water and low in carbohydrates, it is excellent for people on weight loss diets.

Pitaya and Pitahaya: aren't they the same, but they are the same?

We often confuse these fruits. In some cases, they are thought to be the same, but there are differences between the two that make them very particular, even though the similarities in the name do not allow us to distinguish them so easily.

Dragon fruit thorns: Pitaya and pitahaya are not the same, but they are equally rich and nutritious. Image by Rattakarn_ from Pixabay
Dragon fruit thorns: Pitaya and pitahaya are not the same, but they are equally rich and nutritious. Image by Rattakarn_ from Pixabay

What do they have in common?

The pitaya and the pitahaya are considered exotic; they are grown both as ornamental plants and for harvesting the fruit and they produce beautiful flowers. Both come from Central America and Mexico, and belong to the Cactaceae family.

The pitaya and pitahaya contain nutritional properties in terms of vitamins C, B (B1 or thiamine, B3 or niacin, and B2 or rivoflavin), potassium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus, in addition to being low in calories and helping digestion by being rich in fiber.

What is the difference?

Their main difference lies in the gender they belong to. The pitaya comes from the genus Stenocereus, while the pitahaya is from the Hylocereus.

Spines are also a distinguishing feature; even though the pitahaya comes from a cactus, it has no spines.

If you are a fan of cactus, you will know that they give the most beautiful flowers. The flower of these fruits is white and fragrant, nocturnal and lasts only one night. In particular, the flower of the pitahaya is the largest of all cactuses.

The word pitahaya is of Antillean origin and means scaly fruit, its fruit is ovoid, round and elongated, with red, white or yellow flesh and small black seeds; its taste is less sweet than that of the pitaya.

The growth habit of the pitahaya is climbing, so it is internationally known as the fruit of the dragon or Thanh Long, of Vietnamese origin, and that is due to the fact that the plant that produces it climbs on the trunks of the trees and intertwines giving the shape to the body of a dragon, a mythological animal very popular in Asia, mainly in China.

The name of the pitaya is given to the fruit that is covered with thorns; its fruit is ovoid and semi-rounded, with white, red, yellow, purple and red-violet flesh and a large number of black seeds (just like the pitahaya). Its taste is very sweet and its growth habit is columnar cactus (organ).

Production in Mexico of pitaya and pitahaya

According to the Agrifood and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP), the following figures were presented during 2016:

Pitaya: the main producers of this fruit are Oaxaca, Jalisco, and Puebla, who sowed more than 97% of the total area, highlighting Oaxaca as the main producer with 42.9% of the total. The value of production was recorded in 68.38 million pesos.

Pitahaya: generated in 2016 a production value of $59.62 million pesos. It is produced in Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Puebla, highlighting Yucatan with 68.2% of production. In the period reported 4,158 tons were obtained at a rural average price of $14,342 per ton.

By Mexicanist