The name is understandable. One could easily imagine the spawn of some fire-breathing beast to claw its way out of this scaly, crimson egg. But what lies beneath the skin is far less frightening yet still rather surprising.
The three common varieties of dragon fruit, also called pitayas, comes from cactuses of the genus Hylocereus. I had the most common type, Hylocereus undatus, the red pitaya. Its striking resemblance to the prickly pear made me think this at first but the soft, sensitive skin and succulent innards caused me to doubt my initial impression. The full-sized fruit is about as big as a mango and has a similar yet less weighty feel (because it lacks a large pit in the middle).
Slicing open the dragon fruit exposes its shocking secret. Beneath the scaly red skin is a pure white flesh full of tiny black seeds. The aroma is flowery and sweet, like a fresh flower on a dewy morning. The flesh looks like a bleached watermelon and, apart from the crunchy little seeds, has a very similar texture.
Despite the grand buildup caused by the odd look and pleasant aroma, the initial taste is confusingly underwhelming.
"This doesn't taste like anything."
Tasteless but not bland, it's hard to describe. However, the more bites you take, the more prevalent the subtle flavors become. Creamy, floral, sweet, and nectar-like; perhaps the mildness of the flavor is a good thing as a bolder expression of these characteristics could be overwhelming. If it weren't for the price, I could definitely make a regular snack out of this fruit. With any luck the few seeds I planted will sprout (like my prickly pear seeds did).
A very pleasant experience indeed. The dragon fruit isn't only a strange sight to behold but also a subtly delicious treat. Look for them in the refrigerated part of the produce section in your local supermarket.