The Magical and Mysterious Pitaya Flower Only Blooms for One Night
Strawberry pear, Kaktus Madu, cactus fruit, night-blooming cereus – it’s probably popping up all over your Instagram and Pinterest feeds and every food photographer seems to have a strong interest in capturing them. Why not? They are more photogenic than some of us humans.
Everyone knows about pitaya, the exotic-looking dragon fruit that tastes like a cross between pear and kiwi. It’s pretty tasty (to most people) but people are more drawn to the appearance of the fruit . It has a pink/bright-red exterior, a fleshy white/red inside filled with tiny black seeds, and green scales on the outside that makes it look like something out of a fairytale. The scales are similar to those on a dragon, hence the name ‘Dragon fruit’. It’s simply enchanting, and you’d be further drawn in by the mysterious nature of the flower most people don’t ever get to see.
The pitaya flower, also known as the moonflower or the Queen of the Night flower is one of the most mysterious flowers in nature. Two weeks after the buds are planted, the flower blooms in the dark and usually lasts one night before wilting. Two weeks later, the super fruit makes its entrance into the world after the wilting flower has been pollinated.
The pitaya flower comes from one of the 16 species of the Hylocereus genus native to Mexico and South American countries, although the plants can be grown in nearly every part of the world today. The most common species is H. undatus, a highly commercialized crop in many countries including Israel, Australia, China Malaysia, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Colombia Taiwan, and Costa Rica. Many of the species bloom beautiful flowers with creamy-white petals. Sometimes, the tips of the petals are a lovely purple shade and in some species, the petals are a sweet red color.
Potential health benefits of dragon fruit
Since you can’t exactly use the pitaya flower for decorative purposes, since it only lives for one night, we’d have to focus solely on the super fruit that comes out of it afterward. Several studies have shown that the dragon fruit has many potential health benefits and has found great use in creating nutritional diets.
A 2016 study confirmed that the extracts of both the red and white varieties of dragon fruit may help reduce insulin resistance and fats in the liver, as was observed in several obese mice . The mice placed on a pitaya diet were noticed to lose fats stored around the liver over time, gain less weight, have fewer instances of inflammatory problems, and had more beneficial bacteria thriving in the gut, which improves metabolic health.
Pitaya fruits are said to contain several antioxidants, the naturally-occurring compounds that protect your cells and organs from free radical damage. They contain considerate amounts of flavonoids, a group of antioxidants that are said to protect against cardiovascular and neurological problems ; betalains, red-pigment compounds that protect against damage from the oxidization of bad cholesterol ; and hydroxycinnamates, a group of compounds that have been demonstrated in laboratories to possess anti-cancerous qualities .
While dragon fruit is considered a super fruit and a power-house of nutrients, people can develop allergic reactions to it, as with many other fruits and foods.
Dragon fruit is also super-easy to eat, despite the intimidating appearance. All you have to do is wash the skin of the fruit with saltwater, slice it open, and use a soon to scoop up the flesh. The seeds are pretty OKAY to eat as well, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for your well-being. You could choose to remove the skin entirely, dice up the flesh, refrigerate it, and enjoy it chilled. They are also AMAZING when used in yogurts, shakes, or ice cream. Alternatively, you could incorporate them into salads and dishes for a nice, nutritious meal.
- “PITAYA FLOWERS LIGHT UP THE NIGHT.” Pitaya Foods. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- “Red pitaya betacyanins protects from diet-induced obesity, liver steatosis and insulin resistance in association with modulation of gut microbiota in mice.” Pubmed. Song et al. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- “Flavonoid-rich fruit and vegetables improve microvascular reactivity and inflammatory status in men at risk of cardiovascular disease–FLAVURS: a randomized controlled trial.” Pubmed. Macready et al. Retrieved October 1, 2020
- “Absorption, excretion, and distribution of dietary antioxidant betalains in LDLs: potential health effects of betalains in humans.” Pubmed. Tesoriere et al. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
- “The role of phenolic compounds in the fight against cancer–a review.” Pubmed. Carocho et al. Retrieved October 1, 2020.