Although he has long owned and operated a wood-turning business on his 1,5ha smallholding in KwaZulu-Natal's Drummond area, Frikkie Adams has also spent years looking for an interesting, “but low-maintenance”, crop to experiment with as a hobby in his semi-retirement.
In May last year, Adams saw some strange-looking grapefruit-sized fruit for sale at his local Spar. They were dragon fruit, and he was so interested to learn more that he happily paid R19,50 for just one fruit for further investigation.
At home, he peeled the purple outer skin and ate the white flesh, which was full of tiny black seeds.
“It had a very unusual flavour that I still find difficult to describe,” explains Adams. “The texture was like a soft apple or a watermelon. It was also very juicy, and I was amazed at how much edible flesh there was. I went back to Spar and bought 15 more!”
Adams was convinced that he had finally found the crop he was looking for, and spent hours on the Internet researching whatever information he could find on dragon fruit and its production.
He learnt that the purple- or pink-skinned, white-fleshed dragon fruit he had bought from Spar was Hylocereus undatus, one of three species of the fruit. There are also the red-skinned, red-fleshed variety, H. costaricensis, the yellow-skinned, white-fleshed H. megalanthus and a number of dragon fruit hybrids.
According to healthline.com, dragon fruit are “low in calories but packed with essential vitamins and minerals”. They also contain a substantial quantity of dietary fibre.
More specifically, according to the website, a 227g-serving of dragon fruit contains 136 calories, 3g protein, 0g fat, 29g carbohydrates, 7g fibre, 8% of a person’s recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron, 18% RDI of magnesium, 9% RDI of vitamin C, and 4% RDI of vitamin E.
Dragon fruit also provides beneficial compounds such as polyphenols, carotenoids and betacyanins.
“After I’d done my initial research, in August last year I started out with 200 plant cuttings of the red-skinned, red-fleshed variety I’d bought from a grower in North West,” says Adams.
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