Strange Snacks of the World -- Dragon Fruit
Hylocereus undatus--looks kind of Christmasy, right?
Nowadays, many of New York's best greengrocers are found in Sunset Park's Chinatown. As my friends and I stepped off the N train at Eighth Avenue and 61st Street, a dozen vegetable stands spilled their gleaming produce onto the sidewalks. And, among the fresh longans, tiny strawberry bananas, and purple six-foot sugar canes, sat boxes of bright pink dragon fruit, with little green flaps coming off the sides like fins on a '57 Chevy.
The price was $3.99 per pound, and we got two of them, wieghing a half pound apiece. When we got back to Williamsburg, we quickly halved one of the fruits in a longitudinal manner, then took spoons and scooped out the interior like custard, treating the rubbery skin like a bowl. The interior was pale like lemon ice, and shot with black dots. "Those look like poppy seeds," Michelle exclaimed, scooping up a mouthful. The flesh was tart and gritty in an enjoyable way, tasting something like kiwi. We quickly finished the two halves and sliced the other one, too, wondering if we should use it to invent a new cocktail. "No, let's just eat it right now," Sam chortled.
Also known as pitaya, dragon fruit is the pear of an epiphytic cactus species, Hylocereus undatus. It was probably introduced into Vietnam a century ago by the French, who had a colony--now a department of France--called Guyane (French Guiana in English). How ironic, we thought, spooning up the last of the second specimen, that this delicious South American fruit should return to this hemisphere via a Chinese immigrant community.