2018-08-08 / Front Page

Pitayas are painting the valley pink

BY DIANA WHITWORTH NELSON
Editor


Dragonfruit Tartare (Photo courtesy of House. Wine. & Bistro) Dragonfruit Tartare (Photo courtesy of House. Wine. & Bistro) When it comes to hard-to-find exotic crops look no further than Chuck Taylor of Pitaya Farms of Texas, a scientist turned farmer with a penchant for the unusual. Fertile Willacy county soil coupled with a warm climate gives locals plenty of produce including the rare treat of pitaya fruit from June through December.

Native to Mexico, pitaya is Mayan for “scaly fruit” and is also known as, the Asian name, Dragon Fruit. In other parts of the country this fruit, that looks more like a Martian artichoke is quickly becoming the latest “it” fruit sought after for its mild sweet flavor, nutritional benefits and shocking pinkness.

For many it’s love at first bite and that is why Taylor and his wife are up at 6 a.m. each day and sometimes harvesting until sundown. The pair spends a good deal of time on the road from McAllen to Austin making produce stops and handing out samples of their particular breed of pitaya at farmer’s markets, grocery stores and restaurants.

In their ninth season Taylor says, “this is the rock star of the fruit world and our customers are our best friends.”

It’s not hard to see why. Pitayas are rich in fiber for digestive health, cancer fighting antioxidants and vitamin C to keep the wrinkles away and the common cold at bay. Some also claim pitayas can even help type 2 diabetics manage blood sugar levels.

Moxie Iced-Tea Company of Brownsville and two McAllen restaurants buy up all the pitaya they can get from Taylor and incorporate them into weekly features. Check out House. Wine. & Bistro and their sister restaurant Salt and try their seasonal drink specials including “Dragon Fruit Tincho,” an Argentinean wine cocktail spritzer, “Dragon Fruit Frozé” plus their magenta colored lemonade and margaritas. Other unique menu items like poke bowls and salads are livened up with pitaya.

From Taylor’s dried pitaya chips to pitaya beer from Jester Kind Brewery, this fruit grown in Willacy county is showing up in unusual places.

Taylor is committed to grooming the next generation of pitaya farmers who will continue to protect the climbing cactus with the delicate nighttime flowers and hot pink superfruit.

But, how does one eat it at home and how will it taste? They are great in smoothies and ice cream but all you really need to enjoy one is a spoon. So the next time you purchase a 3-pound bag from Taylor ($10) store them in your fridge and enjoy for up to two weeks.

Below are a few of our favorite recipes. Let us know what you think.

Pitaya-rita

Ingredients
1 small pitaya
4 ounces Tequila
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 tbsp Agave
Splash of orange juice
1 cup or 8 ounces of ice
Slice of lime
(add 2 jalapeños, seeded and
sliced for a spicy option)
Directions
Combine all ingredients into a
blender
Blend on medium to high for
30 seconds
Pour into a glass and enjoy
Pitaya Sorbet (courtesy of The
Spruce Eats)
Ingredients


4 ripe pitayas3/4 cup cold water (only if 
fruit
is not ripe)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Optional: 4 tablespoons sugar
Directions:
Place fruit in a food processor
or blender. Add water, lemon juice
and sugar. Sometimes the fruit is
sweet enough so additional sugar is
not necessary. Purée until smooth.
Pour purée into a shallow pan
and freeze. Allow about 10 minutes
at room temperature for the sorbet
to soften before serving.


Pitaya Fruit Salad
Neon Dragon - White Tea - Frio 
(Photo courtesy of MoxieIced-Tea Company) Neon Dragon - White Tea - Frio (Photo courtesy of MoxieIced-Tea Company)

Ingredients
2 pitayas, peeled and diced
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 small jicama, peeled and diced
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh
cilantro
Directions
Combine pitaya, mangoes, jicama, lime, juice, sugar and cilantro
in a bowl
Serve chilled

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