This fruit would be dragon fruit! I discovered the dazzling beauty of dragon fruit upon my move to Southern California last year. This native New Jersey gal had never heard of nor tasted this absolutely gorgeous magenta fruit, with its scaly dark pink skin and sweet tasting inner pulp until planting herself firmly on the west coast. My first encounter with dragon fruit transpired at my local Whole Foods Market juice bar, where they were selling pitaya bowls. Pitaya happens to be another name for dragon fruit, which I did not recognize at the time. I ordered a pitaya bowl topped with bananas, shredded coconut, fresh berries and granola and I was in health-food foodie heaven on Southern California earth. The bright purplish red hue of this fruit was a color I had never encountered in a natural fruit and it was so memorably striking that I knew that I needed to learn about the history and health benefits of this main ingredient of the best-selling item at my local Southern California juice bar. What I discovered turned my love of dragon fruit to a full-blown love affair and a blissful addiction to those pitaya bowls.
Dragon Fruit Nutrition IQ:
1) The fullness factor: Fresh dragon fruit has so much water in it that it contains just 60 calories per fruit. Dragon fruit has plenty of fiber and is a great weight loss food because you can eat a lot of it without gaining weight. The high water and high fiber content means that you can fill up on a large volume and feel as though you’ve eaten a lot of food, but in reality, you’ve consumed few calories!
2) Hello antioxidants: Dragon fruit possesses a cornucopia of vital nutrients, with impressive levels of vitamin C, B vitamins and beta-carotene. The beautiful array of vitamins and minerals in dragon fruit work together to fight free-radical damage, a type of damage that has been associated with aging, the development of cancer and heart disease. In fact, studies have shown that dragon fruit helps control cholesterol levels and increases good cholesterol while decreasing our bad cholesterol. Dragonfruit is also packed with calcium for stronger bones, phosphorus for tissue formation and iron for healthy blood. The antioxidant lycopene (which also provides tomatoes with their red hue) is the pigment responsible for the red color of the fruit and this compound has been associated with a reduced risk of common cancers, such as prostate and breast cancer.
3) Healthy fats: Normally, fruits are fat-free foods, but dragon fruit possesses a healthy dose of beneficial mono-unsaturated fat thanks to the tiny, edible black seeds found inside of the fruit. Like most seeds and nuts, they have healthy amounts of fat and protein. These seeds are impossible to remove from the fruit without pressing the fruit through a strainer, but this would be a silly thing to do considering that they are so nutritious and small that we cannot taste them nor feel them on our tongue.
Dragon fruit is not currently available in most grocery stores in the United States, but they tend to be plentiful in Asian supermarkets and Chinatowns across the country. They are now popping up in quite a few health food stores and you can buy frozen pitaya and have it shipped directly to your doorstep from the Pitaya Plus Company. That is what I used in the recipe you will find below!
To enjoy dragon fruit, you can eat the creamy inner pulp cold, you can blend some up in a refreshing smoothie or you can order a mouth-watering pitaya bowl if you live near a whole foods market juice bar that sells them (like me!). The middle part of the fruit is the sweetest and upon cutting the fruit in half, you can easily spoon out the flesh and eat it as you would a kiwi fruit.
Final fun fruity fact: Dragon fruits help protect the environment because they absorb carbon dioxide at nighttime and emit oxygen to purify the air! Eat more dragon fruit and help the environment. Win and win.
Pitaya Dark Chocolate Coconut Whipped Cream Cups
Ingredients (makes 14-16 cups):
For dark chocolate peanut butter layer:
1 (15 oz) can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
¼ cup natural peanut butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon Stevia or 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ¼ cups vegan dark chocolate chips, melted
For pitaya coconut whipped cream layer:
*Note: You do not have to use pitaya at all for this recipe, but if you don’t use the pitaya, the pink layer will be lovely coconuty white instead of pink.
Store cans of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight before preparing this recipe.
Melt dark chocolate chips in the microwave by heating for a minute and stirring. Blend the melted chocolate chips and all other dark chocolate peanut butter layer ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender. Pour this mixture into a large bowl and place 16 paper muffin cups in a muffin pan. Pour 2 tablespoons worth of melted chocolaty batter (or about enough to fill each cup 1/3 of the way up) into half of the cups (not all of them! ~ some will have the pink pitaya layer on the bottom and the chocolaty layer in the middle) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes so that the bottom chocolate layer can harden. While this layer solidifies in the freezer, prepare the pitaya coconut milk layer.
To prepare the pitaya coconut milk whipped cream layer, clean the food processor or blender and process/blend all pitaya coconut whipped cream layer ingredients. Pour this mixture into a large bowl as well.
Take the solidified bottom chocolate layer out of the freezer and pour about 2 tablespoons worth of the pink pitaya layer ingredients on top of the chocolate bottomed muffin cups. Fill the left over empty muffin cups with 2 tablespoons worth of the pink pitaya mixture (or about enough to fill each cup 1/3 of the way up). Now you will have half of the cups filled with a chocolaty bottom and middle pitaya layer and the other half filled with a pink pitaya bottom.
Place the cups back in the freezer for at least 15 minutes so that the pink layer can solidify. You should have quite a bit of the dark chocolate mixture left over and once pink pitaya layer has solidified in the freezer, pour about 2 tablespoons worth of the dark chocolate mixture over the middle and bottom pink pitaya layers.
Now you will have half of the cups completely filled and the other half 2/3 of the way filled. Again place in the freezer for 15 minutes so that this layer can solidify.
Once hardened, pour remaining pink pitaya layer on the non-filled cups. Sprinkle your favorite toppings on each cup and enjoy!