The pitaya cactus belongs to the Cereus, or night blooming cactus family. It is native to Mexico and Central America, where the fruit is very popular. It is a rigorous climber, the stems being three-sided, jointed and heavy. The stems are fleshy and have short spines. The fruit are usually oval in shape with small fleshy leaf-like protuberances. The purplish red-skinned fruit has the same colour inside. The soft pulp is juicy and delicious with small, black, edible seeds embedded in it. It contains a fair source of Vitamin C.
The yellow-skinned pitaya has more thorns on the stems and large clusters of spines on the fruit. The spines are easily rubbed off. The soft flesh is white and juice with a pleasant flavour. Small, black, edible seeds are embedded in the pulp and crackle between the teeth when eaten.
There may be a pollination problem if there are no insects around. Ants do pollinate the flowers, but if you have no insects, hand pollination will work.
The best method of eating is to serve the fruit chilled and remove flesh from the half-shell with a spoon. The fruit keeps well frozen, either whole or pulped.
DATE: July 1989
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