For a long time, I thought I didn’t like pitaya. I thought it was the hot-pink fruit with white polka-dotted flesh.
They're gorgeous, but they don't taste like anything. Then I started seeing these things popping up at the markets. The vendors said they were pitaya, too, and that they were a cactus fruit from the órgano (organ-pipe) cactus
I finally tasted one at Mercado San Juan last week. The vendor cleared off the spines with a soft brush and cut the fruit open, revealing a deep ruby red flesh exactly the same color as the nail polish I wear on my toes in winter. (Remind me later to tell you about my Mexican-fruit nail polish-naming idea. Mashed capulín
is my second fave color after this.) With its delicate black sesame-type seeds, the pitaya was even prettier than a red prickly pear fruit. I bought a kilo and decided to make an agua fresca. A few days later, the pitayas were going bad and starting to give me the evil eye, so I finally blended the fruit with water and sugar, and strained it. Served a pretty pinkish-red glass to my friend Rebecca and she loved it -- "a cross between cucumber and watermelon," she said. (I'm thinking now that some jalapeño-infused simple syrup and tequila might make a kick-ass cocktail.) Pitayas taste sweeter than a regular prickly-pear tuna fruit, and the flesh is a little more crumbly and moist. If you have other ideas recipe ideas, I'd love to hear them. In the meantime here's a neat article on other types of edible cactus fruits
. Pitaya Agua Fresca
Makes 10 cups 1 lb. pitayas, spines removed 8 cups water 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, or sweetening agent of your choice Juice of 1/2 lime (optional) Cut the pitayas in half, and then in quarters. The fruit should easily peel back from the skin, if they're ripe enough. Toss the flesh into the blender jar and discard the peels. Add about four cups water and half the sugar, blend until smooth. Strain into a pitcher and repeat. Taste for lime juice at the end. Refrigerate and serve cold, or over ice.