Dragon Fruit in Ginger Syrup

Dragon fruit in ginger syrup

Unless you have travelled or lived in Central America, you will probably have never heard of the pitahaya, also known as ‘pitaya’ or ‘dragon fruit’. It is widely cultivated in countries such as Nicaragua where it is mainly used in making a popular natural juice with a distinctive beetroot-pink colour. It is also grown in other Central American countries, in Mexico and Colombia, and in southeast Asia.

Dragon fruit in ginger syrup

The pitahaya belongs to the cactus family and its name means ‘scaled fruit’ . Although the plant is grown in the Dominican Republic (where it also grows in the wild), the fruit is virtually unknown here. I have heard that there are some plans afoot to introduce it as a commercial crop, which came as welcome news to me. One of the highlights during my many visits to Central America was always the delicious pitaya juice I was offered everywhere I went.

Dragon fruit in ginger syrup

When I first saw ‘dragon fruit’ on sale in European supermarkets several years ago, I was delighted, until I saw the price! Despite efforts to promote it as an export crop to Europe and North America, it appears that the unit cost is quite high and keeps it in the very expensive and exotic bracket, together with mango, papaya and passion fruit, all of which are cheap and abundant in their native countries. If it is being grown on a commercial scale here in the DR, I would guess that it has a better chance to succeed if it concentrates on the local market.

Dragon fruit in ginger syrup

If you do happen to see this unusual looking fruit on sale, I recommend you give it a try. Pitaya fruits weigh about one pound on average. It is a striking hot pink colour, with a spiny exterior. Cut it open to reveal the vivid fuscia-coloured pulp peppered with small black seeds, which is either scooped out with a spoon and eaten, or liquidised and strained to make the juice.

Dragon fruit in ginger syrup

Pitahaya has other interesting qualities which make it an attractive commercial option. It can be used as a natural dye and a food colouring, as well as a raw material in the preparation of other foods such as jams, sweets and preserves. It is said to have therapeutic qualities and its use as a medicinal herb dates back to pre-Colombian times. Pitahaya is believed to help alleviate common stomach problems, and is also used by people with diabetes and endocrine problems.

Remember – you heard it here first!

Aunt Ilana
Dragon fruit in ginger syrup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Fruits in light syrup are very popular in the Dominican Rep. This one combines the beautiful dragon fruit with a hint of spiciness from the ginger.
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 dragon fruits
  • 1 piece of ginger root
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 allspice berries
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 6 cups of water
  1. Peel the dragon fruit and cut into cubes or into balls using a melon baller. Be careful with splatter, the juice may leave stains.
  2. Cut the ginger into very thin slices (I used a potato peeler). You will only need 6 slices.
  3. In a deep-bottom pot mix ginger, cinnamon, allspice, sugar and water.
  4. Boil over medium temperature until the liquid has reduced to half.
  5. Remove the ginger and allspice and add the dragon fruit.
  6. Cook until the liquid has reduced to half.
  7. Chill before serving.
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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • CultureChameleon October 30, 2012, 1:51 AM

    I love Dragon fruit. I had it when I went to Asia. They actually carry it in my local supermarket now- Wegmans in Northern VA (US)

  • Mistress of Spices July 7, 2012, 2:20 AM

    How interesting…had no idea that dragon fruit is common in Central & South America too, but it makes sense. Here in Thailand, we get the white dragon fruit more commonly but the pink ones are available too. This sounds like a great recipe!
    My recent post Kaima idli

  • Charles F. Sommers July 5, 2012, 6:16 PM

    Most of the Asian markets here in Nashville, Tennessee stock dragon fruit but it is quite pricey, about $5.00 each. I will probably wait until its popularity brings the price down. When cut open it resembles the fruit of the prickly pear or "tuna." Is there any similarity in the taste?

    • Aunt_Clara July 5, 2012, 6:29 PM

      They look a bit alike inside, but dragon fruit is sweeter and juicier. I am not a fan of prickly pear. My dad loves it though.

  • momof2 June 29, 2012, 11:06 PM

    Your recipes remind me of the food my father used to make for me and my siblings. It brings many good memories. I live in new york city and was wondering where exactly can i buy dragon fruit?

    • Aunt_Clara July 3, 2012, 9:50 AM

      I would guess that farmers' markets are good places to start.