The emerging dragon fruit is becoming a hit with local farmers.
The dragon fruit, also known as the pitaya, is one of the tropical
fruits that belong to the cactus family. It is referred to as the dragon
fruit due to its special features that look like the mythical creature,
which represents good luck in East Asia.
While some farmers in the country have already benefited from harvest
of the fruit which is now found in some local supermarkets, others are
exporting it to Pretoria and Cape Town.
Four years ago, the ministry of agriculture and Taiwan Technical
Mission introduced this crop and promoted it to farmers through the
‘fruit tree production and marketing project.
The fruit is harvested in four areas in the country namely Matsapha,
Dalcrue Farm in Malkerns, Lomveshe, Sithobela and Nisela Farm.
Project Manager Lin Chun-Heng, said they were looking to extend the cultivation area of the fruit to 10 hectares by 2023.
The basic yield of the fruit, which has a red or white flesh that
contains a lot of tiny back seeds, is about 15 to 20 tons a year.
The fruit weighs about 400g-1.5kg, depending on the management skills.
He added that the fruit had high Vitamin C content, contributes to the high antioxidant properties.
“It also contains pectins which is a component of dietary fibre, thus
good for the digestion system. Betalains, an antioxidant in red beets
and red pitaya, may provide protection against certain oxidative
stress-related disorders in humans,” he said.
He added that due to the abundant nutritious value and special
appearance, some people had the misunderstanding that the fruit was a
remedy to diseases.
To clarify that, Hsu, Wei-Chun, a specialist of the fruit tree
production and marketing project emphasised that while the fruit was
full of nutrition, it had no medical effects.
“It increases people’s health because of vitamins, fibre and
minerals, just like every other fruit. Eswatini’s diet and food sources
are relatively simple, mainly corn and a large amount of meat.
“By eating proper vegetables and fruits, one can effectively improve
the source of nutrients and provide the body with the necessary dietary
fibre, reduce the pressure on the digestive system, achieve nutritional
balance and maintain health.
“Pitaya is a very good new choice we suggest and now is the best timing to eat it fresh,” she said.