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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Dragon Fruit That Wasn't

Last time we "spoke", I suggested a mysterious post was forthcoming. Sorry kids, it just isn't going to happen:( I stumbled upon a few road blocks that I just couldn't over come in time. The most important being there is NO Dragon Fruit in central PA. I drove everywhere! Oh I know, you have no idea what I'm talking about. How could you? I'll spell it out, briefly.

photo source

As many of you may already know, Chinese New Year has been in full swing all week. If I have my notes in order, it lasts for about 14 days. (please correct me if I'm wrong) In honor of the occasion, I decided to explore the virtues of Dragon Fruit. Oh, I know the name doesn't sound too appetizing but, according to what I could find out, it taste somewhat like a kiwi of sorts. Enchanted by the night blooming flower which bears the fruit, I went on a quest to see if I could find just one Dragon Fruit in my neck of the woods. No can do. I don't know whether it has anything to do with its exorbitant price ($11-$25.00) or the fact that oddities in food are simply not on the menu in my neck of the woods.

photo source
Confucius Says...
To know what we know, and know what we do not know, is wisdom.

I'm no stranger to huge, fragrant flowers that bloom at night.

taken oven the fence during the full moon September 2011

The notion of trying a new fruit (new to me anyway) in honor of those who visit my blog was rather enticing. There's another reason. You see, in my travels I discovered that under the rules of the Chinese Zodiac, I was born in the Year of the Water Dragon! How cool is that???

The Chinese Lunar Calendar is 2,640 years older than ours and never begins on January 1st, nor does it begin on the same date each year. It can begin any time between January 21st and February 18th, depending on the date of the New Moon in Aquarius. Each year is named for an animal. Every 12 years this cycle begins again. The Chinese say that the animal ruling the year you were born will influence your life. In 2012, Chinese New Year begins January 23rd and will be the year of the Dragon - or more specifically, the year of the Water Dragon. Every animal of the zodiac has 5 elements associated with it. Because of this, there are five dragons, one for each element. Thus, every twelve years there is a different Dragon. (source)

I'll try to explain. According to Chinese folklore, each new year is named for one of twelve animals. "They are, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.  One legend is that this order was determined through a race in which the rat cheated by standing on the ox's head and jumping off ahead of him as they reached the finish line." Every 12 years the Chinese Zodiac animal cycle begins again. You too can find out what year you were born under in the Chinese Zodiac. Aren't you just a bit curious. Try it. It's real easy but be sure and come back:)

The Dragon Fruit, which also goes by assorted names such as Strawberry Pear, is borne from the fragrant bloom of a cacti plant. In Spanish it is called Pitaya. It is touted as an antioxidant which is truly hidden in this "spectacular" Dragon Fruit Salad. Besides containing high levels of antioxidants, Dragon Fruit, like rose hips, is high in Vitamin C. It is also high in fiber, protein, calcium, iron and phosphorus. Whew! Can you understand why I thought the Dragon Fruit was the perfect fruit to celebrate this Chinese New Year? In Chinese culture, Red Dragon Fruit symbolizes prosperity. It is seen as a lucky charm and is believed to be able to ward off evil spirits too. Today, Dragon Fruit is the leading fruit export of Vietnam. The juice of the Dragon Fruit has even caught the attention of companies such as both Snapple, Tropicana and a few organic companies right here in the USA!

The culinary uses for Dragon Fruit are only limited by the imagination. The inner part of the fruit is filled with a very juicy sweet tasting pulp. It's said to be very refreshing, especially when it has been kept in the fridge. Inside the pulp there are small black seeds. The pulp is GREAT in sorbets. Some say the flower buds, which are enormous, are enjoyed as vegetables. How do you eat a Dragon Fruit? It seems, it's really rather easy and chances are, if you're a fruit lover, you're bound to like it. However, remember, the price can be a bit steep. Despite it's price tag, Dragon Fruit sounds Easy to Grow at Home; Anywhere! (remember my pineapple?:) When you buy a fruit, all you need is the smallest piece attached to the fruit and it can be propagated from vine cuttings into a complete fruit bearing plant! That's how they do it at Disney's Epcot Center!

Are you convinced that you too should seek out the nearest Dragon Fruit? No? How about this? Dragon Fruit is said to be the exotic fruit with anti ageing properties! Just in case you're still wondering "What So Good About Dragon Fruit, I suggest you visit any one of these recipe links I have provided for you to begin your exploration. If I may, begin with the plethora of recipes I found at Tastespotting and go on from there:)

I must apologize for leaving you with all these links. I got so discombobulated while searching for the invincible Dragon Fruit that once again, I plum ran out the time to put this all together for you. I desperately wanted to share a recipe or two but alas, all I can say and do for now is wish everyone Gung Hay Fat Choy! and start my list of February Celebrations:) Cheers!See you Wednesday!

Bearded Dragon
source wiki
The Legend of the Dragon Fruit: According to legend, The fruit was created thousands of years ago by fire breathing dragons. During a battle when the dragon would breathe fire the last thing to come out would be the fruit. After the dragon is slain the fruit is collected and presented to the Emperor as a coveted treasure and indication of victory. The soldiers would then butcher the dragon and eat the flesh. It was believed that those who feasted on the flesh would be endowed with the strength and ferocity of the dragon and that they too would be coveted by the Emperor.

It is written that the dragon’s flame originates deep within its body near the base of its tail. The meat from this part of the dragon was the most desirable and most sought after portion. Only the officers of each division would be privy to this cut of meat. The ancient Chinese called this cut the “jaina,” which translates literally to “the sweetest and best tasting."The jaina was treasured by all who were privileged enough to taste it, and it is believed that man’s thirst for the jaina is what led to the destruction and eventual extinction of all of the dragons.(source)

P.S. For those of you who have never "met" Lottie Moon, may I suggest you visit my wikipedia worthy post I did about her a few years ago. (Imagine my surprise when I discovered my link for Lottie Moon; (aka The Cookie Lady) at wiki. Thank you whom ever you are:) From The Lottie Moon Cook Book:

Born in Virginia on December 12, 1840, Lottie (short for Charlotte) Digges Moon was raised in a family "of culture and means" rooted in a deep foundation of Christian Faith and missionary devotion. She would grow to become one of the world’s most well known missionaries, mostly in rural China, and became a tireless advocate for support of foreign missions. Though she stood just 4’3” tall, she laid a foundation for solid support for missions among Southern Baptists.

Resources
1. Chinese New Year Crime Fiction: Gung Hay Fat Choy
Recipes
1. Dragon Fruit Jam & Lemon Marmalade Jam (Kristy's My Little Space)
2. Red Pitaya & Strawberry Popsicle (another from Kristy)
3. Exotic Fruit Chutney (Chef Hari Nayak)
4. Dragon Shrimp Salad (another from Chef Hari Nayak)
5. Dragon Fruit Salad with Strawberries (Pitaya) (Kitchen Grrrls)
6. Strawberry & Dragon Fruit Tartlets (Smoky Wok)
7. Salad of Dragon Fruit, Pomegranate & Macadamia w/ Creamy Mint & Lime Dressing and Dragon Fruit Creme Dessert
8. Coconut Lemongrass-Braised Chicken with Pink Fettuccine
9. Dragon Fruit Caipirinha
10. Dragon Fruit Jelly (Delicious Asian Food)
11. Seared Scallops with Dragon Fruit Salsa (Food Network)
12. How To Make Your Own Dragon Fruit Beer