Most of the time when people talk about red or white dragon fruits, they mean the red or white inside flesh. To tell the difference between the red & white dragon fruits (even before peeling), we can look at their scales, flowers & sometimes branches. Let's have some fun guessing which is which together.
Difference #1. Scales & Skin
If you see that the scales on the dragon fruits are a bit curvy, green & thick, it's more likely that they are red dragon fruits. Have a quick look at this baby right below here:
As you can see, their scales are very curvy like a fishing hook. In some markets, growers beautify these scales by hand-curving each scale. It takes a lot of work but it does help with increasing the appearance and attraction value.
Manually curving the scales also helps them to be a bit thicker & stay in shape better. This prevents the breaking off of the scales during shipping. It's not a big deal for some consumers. But it helps when trading the fruits to more difficult markets. The curviness is sometimes one distinctive way to tell.
What I've noticed, but may not be conclusive yet, is that the white dragon fruit scales are quite wide and thus a bit further apart. The skin of white dragon fruits is usually light bright pink with some bit of brown tint/dots (depending on the harvest time). You can see some examples here:
From the appearance, red dragon fruits tend to have more scale count around the fruit bodies. They are a bit darker & more curvy in some cases. The skin, when very ripe, has a deeper/blackish red color. Some of the scales also have red/purple colors. The El Grullo dragon fruit, named after the town that produces it, has a very unique look–just like the scales of a dragon.
If you see dragon fruits with yellow skin, you'll know even without cutting that the inside is white. Most yellow-skinned ones like Thai Yellow (aka Golden Dragon), Ecuador Palora or Israel Yellow have white flesh.
Here's another difference between the reds & whites:
Difference #2. Flower tips
The tips of red dragon fruits almost always have a red/purple-ish colors. The tips of white dragon fruits are usually green/yellow. This is one very accurate way to tell. It also works for other flowering plants like adenium. By looking at the outside tips, we can more or less tell the color of the inside flesh.
Difference #3. Branches
It can be a bit hard to tell red from white dragon fruits just by looking at the branches. Overall, the red-flesh varieties seem to some more thorns on the branches than the white ones. For some red varieties, they have this distinctive shape of a kind of braid or waves. The Sin Espinas & Bien Hoa Red have this sort of branch shape as you can see below.
Some other red ones have super thorny branches. They hurt pretty bad so be careful or wear gloves when working with your plants:
The white ones have 'milder' and less spiky stems:
According to a grower, there may be little clue to tell which variety of dragon fruit it is just by looking at the cutting. A DNA test could give more accurate results. We think, if you play around more with these varieties, you may be able to tell one from another.
And here's the last difference between the red & white:
Difference #4. Anti-oxidants/Sugar content
The deeper/more intense the red color, the more anti-oxidants there are in the fruits. Red dragon fruits therefore tend to have a higher anti-oxidants amount than the white ones. This is great for the skin, the eyes & the blood.
Although the white dragon fruits may be sweet-tasting, their sugar content is usually lower. This makes them a great treat for diabetics. Seoul Kitchen and George's White are some good ones. They pack a ton of vitamins & fiber without being overly sweet.
Before becoming a red dragon fruit, the inside of the baby fruit is actually white. As it gets more ripened, it gradually turns the inside flesh color into red.
Comparison Table: in summary
|Scales||Thinner, more||Wider, fewer|
|Skin||Deep dark red||Bright pinkish|
|Branches||Wavy, more||Milder, fewer|
|Sugar content||Usually more||Less|
Hi friends, but please remember these are brief comparison points & not set-in-stone definitions. They may help you with some clues to tell which is which before buying or just have some fun guessing.
A good way to approach this is to explore the countless varieties of dragon fruits there are. Once you're a bit familiar with the different varieties, you can more easily recognize them & play around with them to your own liking.
There may be some other characteristics we haven't mentioned like the twistiness or straightness of the branch, the round/oblong shape of the fruit, the thickness/thinness of the skin, the protective coat on the branches, etc.
Ah and if you have a chance to compare the seeds, the much-bigger seeds are more likely the yellow-skin variety. The other ones have very small seeds. Also, on one last note, dragon fruit seeds don't get broken down by human digestive system. With that said, have fun growing & keep on exploring!
Some red varieties:
- Maria Rosa
- Valdivia Roja
- El Grullo
- Kim Red
- Sugar Dragon
- Voodoo Child
- Bloody Mary
Some white varieties names
- Seoul Kitchen
- Vietnam White
- George White
- Connie Mayer
- Bien Hoa White
Purple/magenta dragon fruits
- American Beauty
- Physical Graffiti
- Purple Haze
- Haley's Comet
- Cosmic Charlie
A dragon fruit grower cuts open different red/white varieties:
Responses to Readers' Questions:
What is the interval in eating the red dragon fruit. Can it be eaten on a daily basis for both versions. Thanks.
--> Not a food expert but I believe it is okay to have dragon fruit on a daily basis. You could alternate between the two to get the different good bits from each version. I am not sure about the recommended interval for each person. However, just don't go overboard. I'd say try a little bit first and see how it goes for you. From my personal experience, I can share with you that this is definitely a great fruit for the digestive system.
Red or white dragon fruit increase platelets faster?
--> Thanks for the question. From Zeenews, it says: "Dragon fruit helps in improving platelet count in dengue patients because of its antioxidant properties." If this is correct, then the red one might increase platelet count more because it usually has more antioxidants than the white one. Again, I am not a doctor. You should also do more of your own research just to be better informed.
Is there an alias for the variety "moroccan red"? Can't find some information about that name and heard it's just an alias for "Royal red" is that right? Want to know something about the pollination of moroccan red, because I got a cutting and want to know before planting... Thanks
--> Thanks for your question. I have heard of the moroccan red variety from a YouTube video (from 4:08 - 5:02):
I am not sure about the alias. There is some vague suggestive information about the names because the fruit looks very similar to the Taiwanese purple, aka Ruby Red, Royal Red or Robles Red etc. However, this is not definitive info. If it is true though, then like the Robles Red, the Moroccan Red may be self-fertile, meaning, you can use its own pollen to pollinate its own flowers.
In another case, if it turns out to be not self-fertile, you could use the pollen of some other varieties like Lisa, Sugar Dragon S8 or Vietnam White to cross-pollinate it. These ones are sometimes called "universal super pollinators" because their pollen is quite strong & adaptable. They can get the other varieties to be fertilized and set fruits at higher chances. You could also mix different varieties' pollen together and observe the results for your variety.
You can tell a Moroccan Red by looking at its stem. The curves/edges on the stem are more prominent, not straight all the way. Also, unlike some other red varieties which give smaller oblong fruits, the fruits of Moroccan Red are more round and much bigger. They are also very sweet. I can share this from some personal experience tasting oblong vs round red-flesh dragon fruits. The round ones are so good. Enjoy growing yours. I hope this helps!
Relevant info: How to pollinate dragon fruits
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