I did a double-take when walking past a fruit stand on the corner of Canal and Mulberry in Chinatown this past weekend. I saw a pile of small hot pink hand grenades with soft, leathery plumes of lime green. Very preppy. Very weird.
The cardboard sign read, "DRAGON FRUIT, $5 lb."
I bought one. I asked the vendor how to eat it. He pointed to a nearby stack of bananas and gestured that I should peel it.
I've never seen dragon fruit before, but perhaps you have. According to an article last year in the New York Times, they're all the rage -- a marketer's dream.
A representative from Dragon Kiss liqueur tells the paper, "everyone's attracted to it." Its pink and lime green color combo catches your eye, while the gnarly-looking, twisted petals catches your breath.
Dragon fruit is the fruit of a cactus. It's cultivated in Central and South America and also in Vietnam. The Department of Agriculture started allowing the fruit to be imported from our former Southeast Asian enemy in 2008. (But don't try bringing it in your luggage or sending one home to friends in the mail. That's not allowed.)
Next month, we start welcoming dragon fruit from Central America. We will be awash in dragon fruit. But what will we do with it?
As eye-popping as it is, dragon fruit doesn't pop in your mouth. It's pretty bland and watery. It's slippery like a lychee, but not as sweet. It's got crunchy seeds and a hint of the sweetness of a kiwi, but just a hint.
It really doesn't taste like much of anything. Just a juicy, crunchy pulp.
Dragon fruit, for all its fire-breathing theatrics on the outside, is just blowing smoke.