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Who knew there was a plant with a flower like an explosion of flame, which produces a beautiful but short-lived fruit with the appearance of a brilliant pink rosebud? This is the pitya – dragon fruit – indigenous to Central America but is also grown and exported from several Southeast Asian countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam. Obtained from several cactus species, its succulent stem provides the uniquely delicious fruit with moisture in the arid climates where it grows.
Some dragon fruits have red or yellow skin (which looks a little like a soft pineapple with spikes) and white or red flesh, but always the beginnings of overlaid leaves, similar to an artichoke, and an abundance of small, black, edible seeds. The flavor is mildly sweet, like a blend of kiwi and pear, and it has a crunchy texture.
While it may seem a little strange at first, it's easy to get to the fruit. Simply slice lengthwise and either scoop out the flesh, or quarter it and peel back the leathery skin. Eat only the white part with seeds, removing any residual pink parts, which are bitter.
Fresh Hearts of Palm
A slender white vegetable, hearts of palm is encased in a tough cylindrical, ivory husk. Inside is a velvety, tender flesh that is delicately flavored. Tasting somewhat like an artichoke, it has the appearance similar to that of white asparagus. About four inches in length, individual hearts may be as thin as a pencil or measure nearly one to one-and-one-half inches in diameter.
Physalis peruviana is closely related to the tomatillo, also a member of the genus Physalis. As a member of the plant family Solanaceae, it is more distantly related to a large number of edible plants, including tomato, eggplant, potato and other members of the nightshades. Despite its name, it is not closely related to any of the cherry, Ribes gooseberry, Indian gooseberry, or Chinese gooseberry.
The fruit is a smooth berry, resembling a miniature, spherical, yellow tomato. Removed from its bladder-like calyx, it is about the size of a marble, about 1–2 cm in diameter. Like a tomato, it contains numerous small seeds. It is bright yellow to orange in color, and it is sweet when ripe, with a characteristic, mildly tart flavor, making it ideal for snacks, pies, or jams. It is relished in salads and fruit salads, sometimes combined with avocado. Also, because of the fruit's decorative appearance, it is popular in restaurants as an exotic garnish for desserts.
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