Most of the dragon fruits we have today originate from central America–in places like Guatemala, Nicaragua & Colombia. The Frenchmen helped carry these to Vietnam, where the mass production of dragon fruits took off. Scientifically, they are classified as:
- Hylocereus guatemalensis
- Hylocereus costaricensis
- Hylocereus undatus
- Hylocereus megalanthus (formerly Selenecereus megalanthus)
- Hylocereus polyrhizus
And many other hybrid varieties from these original dragon fruits. Let's begin our exploration.
Hylocereus megalanthus is the yellow Ecuador Palora dragon fruit. It's super spiky. But the fruit, according to many, is the sweetest of all varieties. It tastes almost like honey or a sugar cube. They have yellow skin & white flesh.
The sweetness is reflected by their high BRIX reading (the sugar measure) of over 20 in most cases. Some folks who prefer a sweet-and-tart taste in their dragon fruits don't find this variety too appealing though.
While other dragon fruit varieties take about 60 days to go from flower buds to fruits, the HM can take somewhere from 150 days up to 7 months to develop fruits. The harvesting & handling can be a bit time-consuming because we need to brush those thorns off the fruits. These guys produce white flowers & they are said to be self-fertile.
The HM prices in some countries are crazy high. It may cost up to about $100/lb or $50/kilo depending on the fruit size & quality. A good cutting goes from $25-$50. This is a good choice for long-term investment as of now. But the trend may change.
There's another yellow variety called the Thai Yellow. It may be a cross between Hylocereus Megalanthus & some other specie. Their smaller fruits actually taste sweeter than the bigger ones. They have big seeds & are very sweet.
If you want to grow varieties that produce good pollen, try Lisa (Hylocereus polyrhizus) or Sugar Dragon (Hylocereus guatemalensis hybrid).
Sugar Dragon, a baby created by the master Paul Thomson, is one of the most prolific pollen generator. Some call it the universal pollinator. Because you can use their pollen to pollinate almost all the other varieties. The pollen are often the beasts.
Growing Lisa & Sugar Dragon together may give you good pollen all season round. They actually sequence each other in flowering. Meaning, when one stops blooming, the other one starts flowering. And just like that, they sequence each other year in year out. You'll have enough pollen for the whole year.
Sugar Dragon flowers come in early, so you can use that to pollinate varieties like American Beauty (Hylocereus guatemalensis hybrid) that also flowers early. A good match just in time.
Good for Diabetics
Most of the white-flesh ones (Hylocereus undatus) like the Vietnam White are good for diabetics. They have a low sugar content, but still give you a bunch of other benefits like anti-oxidants, eyesight improvement, blood pressure balancing, etc.
But to some folks, the taste of the white pulp is bland. This may be because the store-bought ones are picked early so they can survive long shipping. Try the George White or Seoul Kitchen. These are great for diabetics but still give you a good taste plus a ton of vitamins, fiber & phytonutrients.
Most good ones for commercial grow are American Beauty & Physical Graffiti. Tricia, Edgar's Baby or Valdivia Roja are also good choices.
For commercial varieties, people often look for:
- Good yield
- Good taste
- Good size
- Self fertility
- Easy hand pollination
American Beauty & Physical Graffiti stand out in those regards.
American Beauty has this beautiful magenta/purple flesh. When picked early, they have a sweet taste with a bit tart after-taste that kind of lasts in your mouth. The texture is nice & firm. When picked ripe, American Beauty is almost as sweet or sweeter than the Sugar Dragon (which is really sweet & is many people's favorite).
The outside of this variety looks as impressive as its pulp. This is an attraction point for many consumers. The fruit has good size from half a pound to over 1 lb. Oh and its juice doesn't stain your hands like thorny Lisa.
This one is also an early bloomer. You can just leave them there for self-pollination. But hand pollination may give you better results. Sometimes, there may little or no pollen in the pollen sacs. Growers pollinate them using Lisa or Sugar Dragon pollen.
If you're growing them in consistently hot climate (over 100F/37.8C), they may get sunburned. If it's too cold (below 32F/0C), they might also be damaged. These beauties are sensitive to heat & cold. In some areas, they may suffer from chlorosis, the yellowing of leaves.
Some people say these guys' pollen is not very good or one of the weakest. They may not produce lots of pollen either. But if you cross pollinate them with some other hybrid varieties pollen, then Physical Graffiti can be one of the most productive ever.
They have large fruits from 0.75 to 1.5 lbs. The inner flesh is a beautiful blend of pink & white. The taste is just amazing. It's a perfect blend between sweetness & tartness. Many folks love this balance. It's comparable to the taste of a golden kiwi. In blind taste test, it still ranks as one of the best.
Physical Graffiti grows & produces well in California as well as Florida where it originates. Protect them from too much sun & cold. You can then get pretty good return on your investment. The marketable weight is around 23 kilos (50 lbs) per plant. Its days to harvest is around 40 days. Very fast production.
Sometimes, they are so productive that people actually have to go & thin off the buds.
Self fertile vs cross pollination varieties
Check out this table below for more info on self-fertile vs cross-pollination varieties:
|American Beauty||Physical Graffiti|
|Sugar Dragon||Red Jeina|
|Colombian Yellow||Hayley's Comet|
|Peruvian Yellow||Frankie's Red|
|Ecuador Palora||Edgar's Baby|
|Dark Star S9||Maria Rosa|
|San Ignacio||Connie Mayer|
|Royal Red||Cosmic Charlie|
|-||Paul Thomson G2|
|-||Kathie van Arum|
Other good commercial varieties
- Tricia: very heat/cold tolerant, but quite thorny
- Vietnam white: heat/cold tolerant, strong growth, good root growth
- Edgar's baby: big round fruits, quick flower-to-fruit
- Valdivia Roja: red, high in anti-oxidants, good taste, produces well
- Seoul Kitchen: good yield, big fruits, great for diabetics
When choosing a variety, also take into account the time the fruits can hang on the tree. For example, some Purple/Magenta varieties can hang on the branch for up to 1 month if we wrap a bag around the fruit. This is one way to keep the fruits good during times when they are not selling well. Some other varieties like the red ones can only anchor on the stem for 10 days.
Why the Sugar Dragon S8 is rated as very sweet, juicy & crunchy but not grown more commercially?
This may be because they produce pretty small fruits compared to the other varieties. They weigh around 0.3-0.5 lb & are about 4 inches long. S8 also has quite thin skin. This means they can get bruised easily & would decrease in value if so. More handling care is needed compared to thicker skin ones. But for pollen, it is A++. If you love the taste, this is a great one to grow for enjoyment.
Tips for commercial growing
To get good yields & fight diseases, growers hand pollinate and graft their dragon fruits on strong rootstocks. If you want to check out more, see these posts here:
Thanks for visiting, enjoy. If you have any questions or any cool tips, let us know. Cheers!
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