My Colombian Kitchen: Pitaya

A major reason to live in Colombia, in my opinion, are the fruits, and pitaya is at the top of my list. Called dragon fruit in some parts of the world, the Colombian variety is different, and just has to be tasted here in the country.

In Colombia pitayas are yellow. Sometimes they’re lighter yellow and at times they’re darker, and all shades are valid. It’s probably why they’re called yellow pitaya. They have a funny little design on the tough skin, and a thick stem at one end where it was once attached to the cactus.

Pitaya in Colombia

 

Pitayas look like an alien pod. Don’t worry. There’s no alien in there. That said, I still don’t like to come across one in a dark kitchen. They shouldn’t be overly soft, but they’ll yield a bit under your finger.

How to eat a pitaya

Since the appearance can be a little intimidating, I’ll take you through the process of peeling one of these little dragons.

First, cut off the ends.

Pitaya first step

Then, run your knife down from top to bottom, cutting through that thick skin.

Put your knife down.

Take the pitaya in your hand and gently prod the skin off it, like getting a coat off a small child. Voila. You now have a naked pitaya.

Pitaya step 2

Now you can do whatever you like with it, but I like to slice it (as you can see in the picture) and eat them fresh. I’ve never seen anyone make anything with the fresh fruit, though dehydrated pitaya chips are a delicious snack and go well as a crispy addition to fruit salads as well as atop appetizers.

This fruit does have a strange appearance inside, too, like fleshy greyish white gelatin studded with large black sesame seeds. That doesn’t sound at all appealing, but smell it. Sweet, fruity, somewhere between a strawberry and kiwi with the scent of Colombia mixed in. Yes, it’s a pitaya. Refreshing, soothing, healthy and delicious.

Pitaya ready to eat
Pitaya ready to eat

A word of warning: don’t eat too much of one until you find out how your intestines will react. Seriously. Just a few slices, wait a while and see. It’s a powerful laxative.

Where to find a pitaya

You’ll find pitayas at many supermarkets in Bogota as well as fruit and veggie places such as Surtifruver and all those other stores that end in ‘fruver.’ Unfortunately, at times they’re quite expensive and aren’t that fresh. We’ve had good success finding gorgeous and less expensive ones at smaller fruiterías (fruit stores) around the city or at a major food market like Paloquemao.

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