There is much confusion about the names Dragon Fruit, Pitaya, and Pitahaya. They are all fruits coming from types of cacti, but are they all the same? Dragon fruit and Pitahaya come from the Hylocereus, now also called Selenicereus, genera of cacti, while Pitaya comes from the Stenocereus genera of cacti. All are from the same Cactaceae family. All three names, Pitaya, Pitahaya, and Dragon Fruit, are commonly and mistakenly interchanged for the same fruit.
What You'll Learn Today
- What Are The Differences Between The Dragon Fruit, Pitaya, and Pitahaya?
- Why Are Pitaya Called Dragon Fruit?
- Where Do Pitaya And Dragon Fruit Come From?
- Why Is Pitahaya Called Dragon Fruit?
- What Other Fruits are Related To Dragon Fruit?
- Is The Inside Of A Dragon Fruit White Or Pink?
What Are The Differences Between The Dragon Fruit, Pitaya, and Pitahaya?
The pitaya comes from the Stenocereus genus, which grows into a column-like shape of cacti called an Organ Pipe. It boasts a brightly colored fruit that is smaller than dragon fruit, with a sweet, refreshing, mildly acidic flavor.
The fruit’s skin is leathery with a covering of long fine needle-like spines. The inner flesh is brightly colored with small black seeds and can be eaten alone or added to other ingredients to create a dish. It is often smaller than the Pitahaya or dragon fruit.
The dragon fruit, or pitahaya, is a member of the Hylocereus genus, now also called the Selenicereus genus, a variety of night-blooming cacti.
Pitaya, Stenocereus, is native to Mexico and some parts of the United States and is grown for its edible fruit.
Pitaya can have a sharper or sweeter taste than most Dragon Fruit or Pitahaya. Both are a good source of vitamins and antioxidants and are useful for adding to smoothies, desserts, and salads.
- Both genera are columnar cacti that can grow up to 20 meters tall.
- Both genera have large, white flowers that bloom at night and are pollinated by bats or moths.
- Both genera are grown for their fruit, which is used in various culinary applications.
- Stenocereus is a genus of about 20 species of cacti that are native to Mexico and some parts of the United States. They are commonly known as “organ pipe cacti.”
- Hylocereus, on the other hand, is a genus of about 20 species of cacti that are native to Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. They are commonly known as “Pitahaya” or “dragon fruit cacti.”
Varieties from each type:
Stenocereus: Some species of Stenocereus include Stenocereus queretaroensis, Stenocereus pruinosus, and Stenocereus thurberi.
Hylocereus: Some species of Hylocereus include Hylocereus undatus, Hylocereus polyrhizus, and Hylocereus megalanthus.
Why Are Pitaya Called Dragon Fruit?
The terms “Pitaya” and “Dragon Fruit” are often used interchangeably, but they are from different species of cacti.
Pitaya and Pitahaya are Spanish words, pitahaya being the same as the English for dragon fruit, and it is used in many Latin American countries. There are many different species of cactus within the Hylocereus and Stenocereus genus that produce pitahayas and pitayas.
The term “dragon fruit” is more general and is often used to refer to any fruit produced by both a cactus in the Hylocereus and Stenocereus genera. It is commonly used in English-speaking countries to describe these cacti fruits’ exotic-looking appearance.
In this video, see pitaya being harvested in Mexico, and you will clearly see how different they are to dragon fruit:
Where Do Pitaya And Dragon Fruit Come From?
Today, the largest producers of true dragon fruit are countries in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. In recent years, the popularity of dragon fruit has led to increased cultivation in other parts of the world, such as Australia, Israel, and the United States.
In Vietnam, the main production areas for dragon fruit are in the southern provinces, such as Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Binh Phuoc. In Thailand, the largest production areas are in the north and northeast regions, such as Chiang Mai and Udon Thani.
In terms of global production, Vietnam is the largest producer of dragon fruit, followed by China, Thailand, and the Philippines. These countries export significant quantities to other countries, including the United States, Europe, and Australia.
Why Is Pitahaya Called Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit gets its name from its distinctive appearance, resembling the scaled skin of a dragon. The fruit’s bright red or yellow skin is covered in scales, which are reminiscent of dragon scales.
Additionally, the flesh inside the fruit is usually white or pink/red and is studded with black seeds, giving it a unique and exotic look.
The striking appearance and unique flavor of dragon fruit have made it a popular food worldwide, and its name has become synonymous with the fruit itself.
What Other Fruits are Related To Dragon Fruit?
Yes, there are other fruits related to dragon fruit. Here is a list of some of them:
1. Night-Blooming Cereus
This is a cactus that is native to the Caribbean and Central America. It produces a fruit that is similar in appearance to dragon fruit but is typically smaller and has a sweeter taste.
2. San Pedro Cactus
This is a large cactus that is native to South America. It produces a fruit that is similar in appearance to dragon fruit but is typically smaller and has a sweeter, milder flavor.
These fruits are also members of the cactus family and share many of the same health benefits as dragon fruit. They are also enjoyed for their unique appearance and delicious taste.
Dragon fruit can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 10-12, encompassing the warm and tropical areas of the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In these areas, dragon fruit can be grown outdoors year-round, provided the plants are protected from frost and extreme heat.
In USDA zones nine and below, dragon fruit can still be grown, but it may be necessary to bring the plants indoors or provide protection during the winter months to prevent damage from cold temperatures.
Some dragon fruit varieties are more cold-tolerant than others, so it is important to research and select a variety that is best suited for your local growing conditions.
In general, dragon fruit plants prefer warm, humid climates with adequate sunlight, well-draining soil, and consistent moisture. It is also important to provide adequate support for the vine-like growth habit of dragon fruit plants.
Is The Inside Of A Dragon Fruit White Or Pink?
The inside of a dragon fruit can be either white, red/pink, or yellow, depending on the variety.
White fleshed varieties of dragon fruit include:
Hylocereus undatus – This is the most common and widely cultivated variety of dragon fruit. It has pink to yellow skin and white flesh with small, black seeds.
Hylocereus triangularis – This variety has bright pink skin and white flesh with small, black seeds. It is also known as a strawberry pear.
Red/pink-fleshed varieties of dragon fruit include:
Hylocereus polyrhizus – Also known as red dragon fruit or red pitaya, this is the most commonly grown red-fleshed variety of dragon fruit. It has bright red skin and deep red flesh.
Hylocereus costaricensis – This variety is also called Costa Rica pitaya or red-fleshed pitaya. It has reddish-pink skin and deep red flesh.
Hylocereus undatus ‘Vietnamese Jaina’ – This variety is a type of white-fleshed dragon fruit, but it has deep red skin and red flesh. It is also known as the Vietnamese red dragon fruit.
Hylocereus guatemalensis – This variety has red skin and deep red flesh. It is also known as Guatemala’s red pitaya.
Yellow fleshed varieties of dragon fruit include:
Hylocereus megalanthus – Also known as yellow dragon fruit or yellow pitaya, this is the most commonly grown yellow-fleshed variety of dragon fruit. It has yellow skin and yellow flesh with small, black seeds.
Hylocereus triangularis – This variety has bright pink skin and yellow flesh with small, black seeds. It is also known as a strawberry pear.
Hylocereus undatus ‘Yellow Dragon’ – This variety is a type of white-fleshed dragon fruit, but it has yellow skin and yellow flesh. It is also known as yellow pitahaya or golden dragon fruit.
Hylocereus megalanthus ‘Costa Rica Yellow’ – This variety has yellow skin and yellow flesh with large, edible seeds. It is also known as Costa Rica yellow pitahaya.
In conclusion, Stenocereus and Hylocereus are similar in that they are both columnar cacti grown for their fruit, but they are very different in their appearance and the type of fruit they produce.
So, to sum it up, both “Pitaya,” “Pitahaya” and “Dragon Fruit” are often used interchangeably to describe the fruit of the cacti, but “Pitaya” and “Pitahaya” is more commonly used in Latin America, while “Dragon Fruit” is more commonly used in English-speaking countries.
To discover more about dragon fruit and how to grow your own, see our other dragon fruit articles.