DRAGON FRUIT Red
Red Dragon fruits grow on long, thin, vining cactuses that are often seen growing up trees, fences or walls. On the outside, Red Dragon fruits look almost identical to the white-fleshed variety. The brightly colored oblong fruits are about 10 centimeters in length and can weigh up to a pound. They have pink to magenta-colored skin that has the appearance of succulent, fleshy scales overlapping, leaving small, green-tipped protrusions along its length. The skin is thin, with an average thickness of only 3 millimeters, so the flesh to rind ratio is high. The bright magenta flesh of the Red Dragon fruit is the result of a compound called betacyanin, which is the same pigment present in beets and prickly pear fruit. The pulp has the texture of a kiwi fruit, with small, black edible seeds throughout. Red Dragon fruit is sweet, though not as sweet as the white-fleshed variety, and has a mild acidity.
Red Dragon fruits are available year-round.
Red Dragon fruits, or Pitaya Roja, are botanically classified as Hylocereus constaricensus and sometimes Hylocereus polyrhizus. The former classification references its native Costa Rica. The red-fleshed Dragon fruits are rarer than the yellow skinned variety, and are not nearly as widely available as the white-fleshed variety. Red Dragon fruits are often called Costa Rican Dragon fruit or Purple Pitaya, and sometimes Strawberry Pear Cactus. In the United States, Florida and California produce these brightly fleshed fruits, in the off-season, they come directly from their native Nicaragua or Costa Rica.
Red Dragon fruit contains high amounts of vitamin C and has a high fiber content. They are also a good source of potassium and phosphorus, as well as other minerals and B-complex vitamins. Red Dragon fruit is rich in protein, antioxidants (from the betacyanins), lycopene and carotene. Dried Red Dragon fruit has ten-times the nutritional benefits of the fresh fruit. The benefits of Dragon fruit include improving the health of the eyes and skin, including protecting the skin from ultraviolet damage. Eating too much fresh Red Dragon fruit can cause a laxative affect.
Red Dragon fruit is often eaten raw, scooped with a spoon directly from the rind. Many prefer to refrigerate the fruits prior to eating, to chill the pulp within. Slice the fruit lengthwise or in half to expose the seeded flesh. The pulp can be added to smoothies or used to make sorbet and other desserts. Remove the flesh with a melon-baller and add to green or fruit salads for a topical addition. Red Dragon fruit will stain the skin and clothing, use care when preparing. Store Red Dragon fruit in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. The fruit can be frozen for up to a year when sealed in a plastic bag. Red Dragon fruit can also be dried to preserve.