Dragon Fruit are native to Central and South America where they are known as pitaya or pitahaya. They are one of the most widely distributed members of the cactaceae family, and are now found on six continents.
The dragon fruit flesh can be white, red, or magenta all to varying degrees dependant upon variety. The red fleshed varieties contain lycopene which is a natural antioxidant known to fight cancer, heart disease, and lower blood pressure. Despite the health benefits and its spectacular appearance, the fruit has gone virtually unnoticed for centuries. Today it is the leading fruit export of Vietnam. It has even caught the attention of Snapple, Tropicana, and Sobe which are just a few of the major labels that have incorporated dragon fruit into their bottled fruit drinks.
The sensation surrounding this fabulous fruit can be attributed to a legend created by ingenious Asian marketers.According to the legend the fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons. During a battle when the dragon would breathe fire the last thing to come out would be the fruit. After the dragon is slain the fruit is collected and presented to the Emperor as a coveted treasure and indication of victory. The soldiers would then butcher the dragon and eat the flesh. It was believed that those who feasted on the flesh would be endowed with the strength and ferocity of the dragon and that they too would be coveted by the Emperor.
It is written that the dragon’s flame originates deep within its body near the base of its tail. The meat from this part of the dragon was the most desirable and most sought after portion. Only the officers of each division would be privy to this cut of meat. The ancient Chinese called this cut the “jaina,” which translates literally to “the sweetest and best tasting.” The jaina was treasured by all who were privileged enough to taste it, and it is believed that man’s thirst for the jaina is what led to the destruction and eventual extinction of all of the dragons.