World of Wonder: Dragon Fruit -The Toast

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dragonfruitAimee Nezhukumatathil’s previous World of Wonder columns for The Butter can be found here.

Those of you who know my poetry know that I am just a weeeee bit obsessed with fruit. One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to sample a selection of local fruit, whatever happens to be in season. Here in western New York, I love to treat my family and friends to the bevy of juicy-crisp apples in the fall—such a sizzling variety here, all with their very own distinctive perfume: Cortland, Mutsu, Empire, Jonagold, Liberty, Winesap, and Macoun.

But I missed a bit of apple season this past fall, as I was lucky enough to be a visiting writer at Yale-Singapore’s campus. For my last day of teaching, the wonderful faculty and students arranged a classroom dinner—a lovely array of local foods, including a most memorable fruit plate piled high with something so marvelously PINK, I could barely keep my eyes off it because its pinkness looked downright…plastic! Even its name seemed to be fantasy–but there was certainly nothing fake about dragon fruit.

I prefer to call it dragon fruit, but other names for it include the Cinderella plant and the night-blooming Cereus. Some just call it a strawberry pear.

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Photo via Photo via

Pretty sure I wore this shade of pink in my nail polish pretty regularly in the ’80s. Okay, who am I kidding—I still love this color! It screams summertime, pop music, sunglasses balanced on your head, and temperatures much too warm for socks. It screams vintage MTV and Bubble-yum gum.

Hylocereus undatus is a cactus that offers up its hot pink pitaya (fruit) after a timely pollination process. The flowers are nocturnal—and bloom in full for just one night. That means they have one precious evening for a bat or moth to help pollinate it and turn it into a dragon fruit, otherwise the 6” spiky greenish white bloom wilts by sunrise.

Each dragon fruit is about 3-4” long, and the inside is ghostly white with tiny black kiwi-like seeds. In fact, the texture and taste is like a duller kiwi, but still sweet, especially when chilled. Many food stands in Singapore and Thailand sell dragon fruit juice and I’m despondent that I didn’t get a chance to have some during my visit. Maybe I’ll get to on the next time I find myself on the other side of this planet.

And back here in western New York, we are on the cusp of summer—I hope I’m not jinxing myself—and that is my favorite season for fruit here: berries of all kinds, and the sweetest of sweet corn, it might as well be a fruit, too! I’m curious to know what fruit are YOU looking forward to the most (one not quite yet in season in your area, but will be soon)? Or, what is the one fruit that piques your interest, but for whatever reason you just haven’t yet bit into one yet? Do share the juicy details with us in the comments below.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Lucky Fish. She is a professor of English and teaches poetry and environmental lit at a small college in Western New York. She is obsessed with peacocks, jellyfish, and school supplies. Follow her on Twitter: @aimeenez.

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