Friday, March 14, 2014

Dragon fruit - a fruit from the fairy tale!

Snow White and 7 Dwarfs - my all-time favourite fairy tale, and from my mother's stories - she used to play "Blanche Neige" in her old-time school, I always wait with excitement for any movie version based on this story. Not long ago I saw "Mirror, Mirror" with Julia Roberts on HBO. I suddenly noticed one detail - the "dragon fruit" was one of the ingredients for the Queen's potion. I still saw this fruit in another Hollywood fairy-tale movie. So a sudden idea crossed my mind - why don't we talk about this "fairy tale" dragon fruit?

                 Red dragon fruit but to us the name "Thanh Long" means blue dragon! 

It could be strange if we imagine the dragon fruit, or "cactus fruit" existed long in those "once upon a time" stories! Is it a reason why everywhere in Asia always name this fruit "dragon"?
But I have to admit that "Thanh Long" is probably one of the very unique edible fruits that we may ever know in the world. The colour, the shape, the texture, the taste - absolutely different from the others. Some people described the taste of this fruit like a mixture between melon and kiwi!

                  Thanh Long harvest in Hàm Tân, very close to my father's hometown. 

Dragon fruit appeared in Vietnam maybe not very long, I can't remember since when we have this fruit, I'm sure that I never saw it in my childhood. Later I was told Thanh Long is likely our special pride, as no other country in the whole Asia can cultivate  good Thanh Long as we do here, especially in a land where the weather is terribly dry and hot, with strong sunshine, near to the seaside - Phan Thiết.
From time to time I saw this fruit in some big supermarkets in Bangkok or Singapore, but it was quite small, wilted...compared to what I usually see in Saigon.

              Thanh Long farm in Hàm Tân, Bình Tuy. They can have 5 or 6 harvests per year.   

When I first saw Thanh Long tree, especially its flower (which becomes a fruit later) I quickly associate with a flower plant, long in the past in our family's garden, very similar, rarely bloom, but when it does only late at night with nice fragrance, sadly wilt next morning. My mom used to take a good care of this plant as she fell in love with its flower. It's gorgeous but short-lived.

               The flower and then it becomes a fruit in just a month or less...

                    30 days later we have fruits...wait a little bit more till it's ripe...

I did try dragon fruit jam in one resort in Phan Thiết, it was a bit weird to me, because dragon fruit doesn't have a sour taste which I consider good for jam making. I also tried dragon fruit juice, it has been mixed with other fruits so it was ok.
Dragon fruit tastes good by itself, not too sweet, not sour, not bland, as some people's comment, I don't think we need to add anything else. It's a very healthy fruit. I don't know exactly how healthy is it, but I love it, esp. when it's served cold.

                    Real red dragon fruit, sweeter but also more expensive! 

                     Dragon fruit as Tet decoration plant at the flower market in Saigon. 

Nowadays we still have a real red dragon fruit, very sweet and quite expensive compared to the normal ones. Thanks to the red colour, Thanh Long considered a symbol of good luck, that's why for years during our New Year we can decorate home with a small Thanh Long, plenty of fruits around the tree, as a wish for prosperity.

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