It’s been a few months since my journey to the Philippines and I’m really missing it. We spent a lot of time in the Luzon region which includes Manila and where my wife is from, Ilocos Norte. Ilocos Norte holds many cultural treasures that are ideal for intriguing and relaxed sightseeing. We went to the northern most tip of the island to Pagudpud where we spent a couple days on the beach and exploring the town.
While researching what we wanted to do we came across a dragon fruit plantation, RefMad Farms, that allows people to tour their property and taste-test a few of the many different products made with dragon fruit. Since I’m always making room in the kitchen for new recipes, I was excited to visit the plantation!
What’s Up With Dragon Fruit?
Dragon fruit is the edible fruit of the Pitaya or Pitahaya cactus. It is native to parts of Mexico and Central America and commonly found in South East Asia. Its fruit comes in two sparkling colors- a brilliant white and fuchsia. Both varieties contain small edible black seeds throughout which add to the vibrant appearance of the flesh. As with most cactus that produce fruit or flowers they only bloom at night, usually starting right after the sunset and peaking a couple hours before the sun comes up.
Since Garden Eats readers are always writing in asking us to feature whole foods and super foods, I couldn’t resist thinking about the recipes I’d try making when I got back to the states. Have you tried this colorful fruit yet? If you haven’t, it’s a mild tasting fruit that is slightly acidic and just slightly sweet- a taste combination I love. The fruit’s texture is similar to kiwi. There is a slightly discernible taste between the pink and white fruit. I thought the pink was a little bit sweeter. People love preparing jam with dragon fruit. When fermented it can be enjoyed as wine and vinegar. The unopened flower buds can be used as vegetables as well. The pulp can be shredded and used in soups as well. Vibrant and versatile!
Health In Every Bite
Dragon fruit’s benefits go beyond taste containing anti-oxidants known as phythoalbumins that can help prevent the formation of cancerous cells. Need a metabolism boost? The proteins are perfect for this fix. To balance digestion and manage weight, the fiber comes into play. Dragon fruit is also packed with beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2 and C. Blood pressure slightly high? Dragon fruit even contains beta-sitosterol to help bring that number down.
The owners of RefMad, Rodolfo and Edita Dacuycuy’s daughter has severe Cerebral Palsy. They found that including dragon fruit in her diet helps to keep digestion in check making her daughter a lot more comfortable.
For History Lovers
Dragon Fruit was introduced to the Philippines in the early 1900’s by the Spanish and local Filipinos who were returning to their homes from working abroad. For about 100 years or so it was just grown mainly by families who were simply producing enough to feed themselves and the small local markets. In 2007 RefMad farms was founded. They were the first strictly commercial dragon fruit farm in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Ilocos Norte is a huge rural and farming area. They produce everything from rice, corn, melons and tons of local vegetables. In the far northwestern area where the climate is slightly drier, the dragon Fruit has become one of the major cash crops. And for good reason, the plants live for 45-50 years and produce fruit continuously once they reach maturity for their entire life span. The harvest season is about six months long and there can be between 10-12 harvests during that time span. A farm the size of RefMad will harvest between 3-4 tons every harvest!
Since the farm’s beginnings in 2007, Rodolfo and Edita have been prominent world travelers after being invited to many national and international conferences. They have been nominated for awards in the Philippines and the 2010 Search for Outstanding Rural Women. I wish them luck in the future- an outstanding show of how starting something small can turn into an amazing life altering force.
Thanks to Rodolfo and Edita for allowing me a little insight into their world and answering all of my questions so I could share them with you today!
Bryant will be back soon to share one of his kitchen-tested dragon fruit recipes! Do you have a recipe you’d like to share? Feel welcome to tell us about it in the comments below!