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.

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