Now, I indulged in a number of delicious foods when we traveled to China back in 2013, such as dumplings in Shanghai, noodles in Xi’an, and roasted duck in Beijing, but these dishes require the skill of a specialty cook or chef to recreate. We could learn how to craft these treats on our own, but more realistically, we can order them from a local restaurant and prepare something complementary.
In Shanghai, I also stumbled across a tropical fruit salad with an exotic twist. The addition of black and white dragon fruit gave it a classy look and took it from “ho-hum” to “yum”! Since then, “Melon & Dragon Fruit Salad” has become a refreshing accompaniment to barbecue and tea party fare among family and friends.
Notes: This post was last updated on October 5, 2020 and offers no professional advice. Sources are listed only to indicate where information was and can be found. For more information, see “Disclosures and Disclaimers.”
First, What Is Dragon Fruit?
Melon is pretty common, but what is dragon fruit? Dragon fruit (also known as, “Pitaya,” “Pitahaya,” and “Strawberry Pear”) is a fruit that comes from a cactus plant and in different species and varieties.1,2
The species I used is hylocereus undatus, which has pink skin, green leaf-like petals, white flesh, and tiny, black (edible) seeds. It resembles a dragon’s scales on the outside and a black and white kiwi on the inside. It has the texture of a kiwi and a mild, grape-like taste.
Another species, hylocereus sp., has pink flesh.1
Where Does Dragon Fruit Come From?
Dragon fruit grows in Southeast Asia, Australia, Israel, Florida, Hawaii,2 and Southern California,1 but it originated from and grows in South America, Central America, and Mexico.1,2
It is “in season” from June through September,1 but frozen and dried fruit are available beyond summer months. It may be found at a farmer’s, specialty, or online market. (Note: I found mine at a local Asian market.)
How Nutritious Is Dragon Fruit?
Based on educational and organizational sources online, the nutritional content of dragon fruit depends on the species2 and whether it is raw, frozen, or dried.3
With more than 20% of the daily value4 for vitamin C, raw, white-fleshed dragon fruit is an excellent source of this nutrient. And like many other fruits, it is high in water.
With at least 10% of the daily value4 for fiber and magnesium, frozen, pink-fleshed dragon fruit is a good source of these nutrients. Dried, pink-fleshed dragon fruit is higher in carbohydrate and calories.
(Note: A dash or hyphen was entered when data was not available. Other fruits were listed for comparison.)
Can Dragon Fruit Be Part Of A Healthy Diet?
By diet, I mean “way of eating” – not a therapeutic diet, which may be prescribed for an individual by a medical professional. In the absence of food-related health concerns, such as a rare allergy or hypersensitivity to dragon fruit or a health condition that requires dietary restriction based on a medical professional’s advice, dragon fruit can be part of a healthy way of eating. For the general American public (13 years of age or older and engaging in less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day), the U.S. government recommends a healthy eating style that includes protein foods, dairy, grains, vegetables, and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day.5 The following is counted as 1 cup of fruit:
- 1 cup of cut fresh fruit, or
- 1 cup of cut frozen fruit, or
- ½ cup of dried fruit5
How to Make Melon & Dragon Fruit Salad
- Preparation Time: 30 to 45 minutes
- Servings: Makes 12 cups
- 2 dragon fruits
- 1/2 small watermelon
- 1/2 small cantaloupe
- 1/2 small honeydew melon
When the fruits are ripe, wash well and pat dry. (Note: My dragon fruit was ripe when I was able to create a slight indentation in the skin with my thumb.)
Using a long, sharp knife and a cutting board for fruit (or one that will not impart any “off” flavors like onion), carefully cut the dragon fruits lengthwise, in half. Gently peel off the skin. If the skin is in good condition, it may be used for presentation. Cut the flesh into ¾-inch to 1-inch cubes and transfer to a large bowl or serving dish. (Note: My dragon fruit had a few less appealing parts that I scooped out and put in a lined compost bin.)
Cut the watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon into halves. Scoop out the cantaloupe and honeydew melon seeds. Cut into slices and separate the flesh from the rind. Cube into ¾-inch to 1-inch pieces and transfer to the large bowl or serving dish.
Put all inedible plant parts into a lined compost bin. Toss, serve, and enjoy!
- For more sweetness, toss with 1 to 3 teaspoons of honey.
- Serve with dim sum, barbecue chicken, or tea sandwiches and baked goods.
- With the seeds, try planting and growing cantaloupe and honeydew melons at home.
Sources are listed only to indicate where information was and can be found. For more information, see “Disclosures and Disclaimers.”
- Agricultural Resource Marketing Center. (Revised 2018, October). Dragon Fruit. https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/fruits/dragon-fruit
- Crane, J.H. & Balerdi, C.F. (Revised 2019, December). Pitaya (Dragonfruit) Growing in the Florida Home Landscape. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs303
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov
- Food & Drug Administration. (2020, March). Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/daily-value-new-nutrition-and-supplement-facts-labels
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate. (n.d.). All About the Fruit Group. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/eathealthy/fruits