A Taste of the Tropics
Better Nutrition|November 2021
After returning home from Nicaragua, Pitaya Foods founder Chuck Casano couldn’t get dragon fruit smoothies out of his mind. So he decided to bring the delicious, exotic fruit to the states.
By Neil Zevnik

They are definitely exotic and intriguing, touted as “superfoods,” and until very recently, wholly unfamiliar to American consumers. Dragon fruit (does it burst into flames when cut?), passion fruit (does it instigate ardor when ingested?), and açai (how do you pronounce that anyway?) are just now making their way into the consciousness of health-minded folks. But they’ve been local staples in tropical and subtropical regions of the world for centuries, where their flavor and texture are as much appreciated as their nutritional benefits—all three are excellent sources of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

It was in Nicaragua that Chuck Casano first encountered dragon fruits. “When I returned to the States, I wondered why I couldn’t find a delicious red dragon fruit smoothie that I enjoyed every day in Nicaragua,” he says. And his experience working for a nonprofit made him acutely aware of the distressing conditions in the country. “Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and most farmers cannot afford pesticides, so that is where I saw Nicaragua as a huge untapped resource for organic raw material and produce.”

Dragon Fruit Fuels Local Economies

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